Sprint launched their new ad campaign during
Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Their
campaign is centered on former Verizon pitchman, Paul Marcarelli.  The character known as “Test Man” in the
Verizon commercials that ran from 2002-2011, Marcarelli is responsible for Verizon’s
most iconic phrase: “Can you hear me now?”

Sprint’s ad, which is aptly titled “Paul
Switched,” is extremely straightforward.
It opens with Marcarelli: “Hey, I’m Paul, and I used to ask if you could
hear me now with Verizon.  Not anymore—I’m
with Sprint now.”  The former Verizon pitchman
proceeds to assert that it’s 2016, and that all networks are great—Sprint’s
reliability is within 1% of Verizon, despite what most would think. However, not all networks are cheap.  Sprint, Marcarelli says, saves you 50% on
most other major network rates.

To add insult to injury, Sprint’s CEO, Marcelo
Claure, later revealed that Marcarelli is a genuine Sprint customer.  Apparently, after Marcarelli’s contract with
Verizon expired, Sprint approached him and offered him the opportunity to try
their network. Marcarelli was a fan from the get-go, and agreed to be Sprint’s
pitchman for their new campaign.

Verizon seems to be a bit sour about the whole
thing, with spokesman Jeffrey Nelson saying asserting that “Sprint is using our
(Verizon’s) 2002 pitchman because their network is finally catching up to our
2002 network quality.”  Nice.

This was a risky gambit by Sprint.  They could have easily looked as if they were
grasping, trying to claw back into the conversation of top American
networks.  However, their campaign launch
was strong, and their ad campaign is poised for success.

Here’s what Sprint got right:

1. Paul
Marcarelli:
 The fact that Sprint snagged Verizon’s most
famous pitchman turned heads in and of itself—Sprint had earned the attention
of both traditional and social media.
With the world watching, Marcarelli nailed his role as Sprint’s new
pitchman and Verizon defector.  He seems
comfortable in his role, and he naturally conveys sincerity.  He fits the bill perfectly.

2. Follow
Up:
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure
significantly strengthened the network’s ad campaign launch and prospects
moving forward with his follow-up comments.
He revealed that Marcarelli was a personal fan of Sprint, and a genuine
customer.  This serves to strengthen the
narrative that Sprint is on par with Verizon and other major networks; it also
adds to the sincerity of Marcarelli’s performance as Sprint’s new
pitchman.  This is far superior than if
it became public knowledge that Sprint merely offered Marcarelli a massive contract.  It’s organic, sincere, and genuine.

3. Matter-of-Fact:
Sprint didn’t take any serious
potshots at Verizon in their ad campaign reveal.  Rather, the tone of the ad was
matter-of-fact, with Marcarelli outright addressing his new role with Sprint;
he briefly discussed his personal preference for Sprint, and touched on the
reasons behind it.  Marcarelli also stuck
to stats that portrayed Sprint in a positive light, rather than utilizing stats
that portrayed Verizon in a negative light.

Ultimately, Sprint got their new ad campaign’s
launch right.  If they wouldn’t have,
their stock would have been further reduced, and they would have continued to
languish behind other major networks in public perception.  Rather, their campaign portrays them as
strong, modern, sincere, and full of promise for the future.

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Contributor: Jack Haandraadts, Account Coordinator at Marketing Maven