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Sprint CMO Bill Malloy to Step Down in March 2014

Sprint Doesn't Name a Successor, Plans to Keep Publicis's Team Sprint

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Sprint is looking for a new CMO to start on April 1, 2014.

Current CMO Bill Malloy announced to employees last week that he will be retiring effective at the end of March 2014. Sprint has not yet named his successor and said it has not determined whether it promote an executive from within the company or conduct an external search for the role.

Mr. Malloy joined Sprint in September 2011 and was a key part of a major reorganization in the telecom's marketing department and overhaul of its agency relationships. Mr. Malloy fired Sprint's longtime agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners shortly after assuming the CMO role. He replaced the Omnicom Group shop with Team Sprint, a dedicated group comprised of Publicis Groupe agencies Digitas (before it was merged with sibling shop LBi) and Leo Burnett, without conducting a review.

Mr. Malloy in an interview said he predicts the company will retain its current Team Sprint agency arrangement after his departure. Of course, it's hard to tell whether a new CMO may have exisiting relationships on Madison Avenue or where his or her priorities will lie. There's also the matter of Publicis Groupe's impending merger with Omnicom Group -- where AT&T is one of the biggest clients -- and whether that might be deemed a conflict big enough to look elsewhere.

Advice to Successor

Asked what advice he might give the incoming CMO, Mr. Malloy recommended continuing Sprint's emphasis on multi-screen digital marketing. During his tenure, he championed a major shift in ad dollars away from TV towards digital and mobile marketing. "If we're the enabler of all things mobile for our customers, why wouldn't we think of things as mobile first for our marketing?" Mr. Malloy said.

Sprint's measured media spending decreased under Mr. Malloy's tenure to $810 million in 2012 from $886 million in 2011, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. Market share remained essentially flat over that period. Sprint was the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier with 15.7% market share in 2012 and 15.6% in 2011.

In January 2012, Sprint reorganized its executive roles resulting in Mr. Malloy managing marketing for both business and consumer services. Four Sprint execs left the company as part of the restructuring.

Mr. Malloy is leaving Sprint amid another huge transition for the company. Sprint completed its merger with Japanese telecom provider SoftBank in July after SoftBank bought approximately 72% of Sprint's shares. The acquisition gives Sprint $5 billion in new capital to invest in its network infrastructure.

More Aggressive Marketing

Charles Golvin, mobile carrier analyst at research firm Forrester, said he expects Sprint to market more aggressively as a result of the merger. SoftBank has a reputation for "disruptive marketing campaigns," he said.

Sprint's unlimited data offer has long been a way for it to market itself against perennial frontrunners AT&T and Verizon. But T-Mobile's brash rebrand earlier this year has given Sprint new competition.

"Sprint is sort of stuck in this middle world between being eaten away by T-Mobile and its Uncarrier messaging and on the high end by AT&T and Verizon," Mr. Golvin said.

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