Enter the Cable Guy
Lotus Racing announced a partnership with CNN today. As ever, that weasel word ‘partner’ leads one to ponder how much (if any) money is involved, and what benefits eventuate for either party.
Launched by media mogul Ted Turner in 1980, the Cable News Network leapt to international prominence during the first Gulf War by dint of being in the right place at the right time: it had a clutch of reporters in Iraq when hostilities broke out. The 24-hour news cycle we take for granted today truly came of age as Bernard Shaw (no relation to the author of Pygmalion) reported live on the bombing of Baghdad.
The competition between these rolling news networks is fierce, and, as you might expect, coverage is costly, especially since the big guns now operate locally tailored programming on a global basis – usually aimed at a business audience. Increasingly these networks – even BBC World – are turning to commercial sponsorship of their news broadcasts. The Lotus release aligns its ‘partnership’ with CNN’s ‘Partner Solutions Group’ (I feel a submission to Private Eye coming on) under the leadership of Rani Raad, the senior vice president International Advertising Sales, who had this to say:
The combination of two such iconic and aspirational global brands fits perfectly with CNN International’s worldwide reach and brand positioning. This unique partnership with Lotus Racing takes CNN International into a new era of marketing and promotions and puts us in front of a worldwide audience of millions.
Raad is credited with engineering a number of high-profile programme sponsorships for CNN International. Most recently he has been involved in a deal for the Earth’s Frontiers environmental series to be sponsored by Masdar, a renewable energies company wholly owned by Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi (which, coincidentally, has a stake in Ferrari as well as being one of the driving forces behind the Abu Dhabi GP). CNN is also launching a broadcast facility in the emirate.
Some readers may be uncomfortable with corporate sponsorship of news broadcasting, but this is the direction we’re heading in as conventional ad revenues decline. There are governments and sovereign wealth funds out there with pots of money that they wish to spend on promoting their countries as business destinations. The Lotus connection will engender a lot of attention in the kind of emerging markets CNN is aiming for.