Despite Turmoil, Sprint Scores Super Bowl Sponsorship

The move at Sprint Nextel to oust several senior executives hasn't slowed marketing efforts. Amidst the company's reorganization, the No. 3 telecom carrier will deliver on a deal with Clear Channel Outdoor to support Super Bowl XLII pre-game activities.

The events will take place at Westgate City Center's 500,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and theaters across from the University of Phoenix stadium. The plaza will play host this week to concerts, parades and parties for the National Football League. The events lead up to Super Bowl XLII on Sunday.

The deal with Clear Channel Branded Cities gives Sprint a premiere spot on a 54-foot-by-43-foot board, as well as sponsorship to the celebrity Phone-A-Friend promotion, where fans can have NFL players place a call to friends or family members from Super Bowl XLII. Sprint also gains rights to NFL football player parades and autograph sessions.

Partnering with Sprint was a conscious decision, says Dan Jasper, vice president/marketing and business development at Clear Channel Branded Cities, a division formed last year to support complexes like Westgate City Center that combine condominiums, retail stores and more. The media company looked for NFL partners that could best support game promotions for the lowest cost.



Clear Channel and Sprint sealed the deal sometime in the fall. "This was an opportunity to create something great on a blank canvas, and we wanted a company that would do the coolest things," Jasper says. "Sprint is the NFL partner, so we made a point to single them out first for the NFL project."

Clear Channel Branded Cities--a concept that lets advertisers connect with consumers in communities where they work, live and play--has developed large-scale branding opportunities for Westgate. In phase one of the project, more than 30 media signs up to 100 feet in height and a full-motion light-emitting diode (LED) screen spanning 1,500 square feet were installed. The media company also continues to develop advertising and marketing opportunities, including "technology applications" that carriers like Sprint could support.

As part of a long-term commitment to advertisers at the Westgate City Center and other soon-to-be-built complexes, Clear Channel has begun to roll out a platform to reach consumers through technology. Westgate Mobile is a wireless application built on Bluetooth technology, enabling services like the Westgate Channel.

While the service would allow advertisers to offer incentives through mobile phones, consumers who download the application gain access to discount coupons and music videos, as well as information on local events, such as movie times for the 20-screen theater and concert schedules at local sporting arenas. Jasper believes Quest Communications might have first dibs on supporting wireless service in the Westgate project, but there are other complexes going up across the United States that Sprint and others could support.

Greg Gorbatenko, telecommunications and media analyst at Jackson Securities, believes Sprint--which has been losing subscribers to rivals AT&T and Verizon--is not likely to rebound by participating in promotions and sponsorships. He suggests that Sprint should focus on rebuilding its consumer subscriber base with consumers looking for WiMax and cellular services. "They need to begin offering a less expensive service like T-Mobile to turn around the business and survive," he says.

Sprint's plan to build and roll out a fourth-generation network known as WiMax in the beginning of this year has been criticized for being too expensive.

Last week, word came from Sprint Nextel that the carrier would replace three of its top executives in an ongoing effort to turn around business. CFO Paul Saleh, CMO Tim Kelly, and President of Sales and Distribution Mark Angelino are out. As of Friday, interim players CFO William Arendt, CMO John Garcia, and President of Sales and Distribution Paget Alves are in. The changes took place after Sprint's CEO, Dan Hesse, revealed he would cut 4,000 jobs and close more than 100 stores to become a bit leaner and more nimble.

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