After many years where AT&T was the long-time exclusive telecommunications sponsor of the event, the category was shared among phone companies. Sprint Nextel became a first-time buyer of the event, making a non-exclusive on-air media buy on the ABC show.
Sprint advertising had been running on Oscars.com for some time. In the past, Sprint participated in gift bags marketing, in which mobile phones were provided to participants.
As part of its overall Academy Awards sponsorship, Sprint provided an exclusive new application called "Oscars Live Challenge," which offered movie fans a chance to test their skills at choosing the Oscar winners. Before and during Oscar Night, Sprint customers and visitors to Oscar.com could make their predictions on this year's nominations.
Fans could answer trivia questions, participate in up-to-the-second opinion polls and chat together. The application was available on 49 Sprint handsets, available at no charge with any Sprint data plan.
ABC's "81st Academy Awards" ran on Sunday, Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood at 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST).
The event was marred by the shifting of major sponsors and lower advertising prices, due to the weakening economy. The original $1.8 million price tag for a 30-second commercial dipped, according to media executives, to as low as $1.4 million.
General Motors and L'Oreal were two longtime major sponsors that decided not to participate this year. New advertisers were added, such as Hyundai Motor and Hoover.
For the first time this year, the Academy allowed movies to be advertised in the show--but with a host of restrictions. The list included Walt Disney's "The Proposal" and Paramount's "The Soloist."