CitationAir to fly with Imus

Feb. 18, 2010
Feb. 18--CitationAir by Cessna has picked up Don Imus as its new wingman.


The Greenwich-based fractional jet company recently signed on as the exclusive private aviation sponsor of the "Imus in the Morning" nationally syndicated talk show.

"Our goal is to raise our profile and become a recognized brand in this space," said Renee Levine, CitationAir's vice president of marketing. "We felt like this partnership could help us accomplish that."

CitiationAir's marketing message will be broadcast to Imus's more than 1.3 million weekly listeners through a mix of live endorsements, commercial spots and short-segment sponsorships. Several of the spots are being voiced by veteran announcer Johnny Donovan of 77 WABC.

Imus's high-profile name and loyal following should help the recently rebranded company get the attention it needs, Levine said. The Westport resident's reputation as a frequent user of private aviation also stands to give CitationAir the lift it needs, she said.

"We feel he (Imus) has a passion for the products he endorses," Levine said. "His listeners are a good fit with the audience we're trying to reach."

CitationAir chose the "Imus in the Morning" show because it reaches an affluent, upscale audience, which is tailor-made to its clientele, said Steve Borneman, president and general manager of 77 WABC.

"Fractional ownership airlines need to speak to a specific segment of the marketplace," he said. "The 'Imus in the Morning' program reaches this."

CitationAir, which was founded in 2000 by Wichita-based Cessna Aircraft Co., the private plane manufacturing division of Textron Inc., in October changed its business model to offer the perks of timeshare ownership to buyers of Cessna airplanes. In essence, individuals and business entities can buy 100-percent ownership of an aircraft and then lessen some of the costs by letting CitationAir charter it to other users.

CitationAir has 80 aircraft and 530 employees.

Acquiring a celebrity spokesman is typically a good strategy for immediately raising awareness for a brand, said Gerald Cavallo, a marketing professor at Fairfield University.

"The question is how much credibility does that person have toward the product," he said, adding that companies often use celebrities who are considered an authority on the product. "Imus will help the cause of bringing recognition to the CitationAir name."

Only time will tell, however, as to how well celebrity endorsements translate into increased revenue for the company, Cavallo said. A company's image also becomes linked with the celebrity's reputation, good or bad, he said.

"When a celebrity gets into controversy or issues, it can bring a shadow over the product they endorse," Cavallo said.