Nextel to Sponsor CBS 9/11 Special

Nextel Communications is not going dark on 9/11. In fact as other major brands take a pass on any advertising activity during the day’s various media tributes, the cell phone company is repeating its underwriting sponsorship of the CBS documentary “9/11.”

According to Audrey Schaefer, senior director of corporate communication for Nextel, the company is footing the bill for production costs of the documentary as it did for its initial airing on March 11, six months after the terrorist attacks. An estimated 52.4 million viewers watched all or part of the "9/11" presentation when it was originally broadcast, making it the highest rated non-sports broadcast of the season. The documentary has been nominated for five Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Non-Fiction Special. The show is an insider's account of the World Trade Center attack from French filmmakers Gedeon and Jules Naudet and NYC firefighter James Hanlon. In March it was interspersed with photomontage tributes to rescue workers, sponsored by Nextel.



“There are two words I don’t associate with our effort here,” said Schaefer. “The first one is ‘advertising,’ the other is ‘strategy.’ Our underwriting sponsorship insured that this film would be presented and presented without interruption.”

Schaefer says Nextel is still finalizing its plans for the re-broadcast, currently slated for 9 pm on Sept. 11. She expects it will be “very similar” to the photo montage tributes used in March. Nextel is one of the only brands to announce any activity on the 11th. Among those “going dark:” Pepsi, Miller, Coke, GM, Sears, Target, Nissan and HBO.

Schaefer says the result of Nextel’s March sponsorship has been measured in non-commercial terms. The company never planned for its activities to result in a bump in Nextel phone sales. Nextel sent 9,000 phones for free to rescue operations in Washington, New York City and Shanksville, PA during the week of the 11th.

“The reaction to our sponsorship in March was overwhelming,” she said. “We heard positive responses from people across the country that we never expected to hear from. Employees, shareholders. current customers and potential customers all reached out to tell us how proud they were to be associated with Nextel.”

Schafer had no comment on the position taken by other brands that are avoiding the 11th. “We’re doing both,” she said. “We’re not advertising anything that’s designed to sell phones. So in that way we’re going dark. But we’re also underwriting this program.”

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