Sprint Poised to Name Alma as its U.S. Hispanic Agency

CEO Marcelo Claure Makes Latino Market a Priority

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Sprint is expected to name Miami-based Alma to handle its fast-growing U.S. Hispanic creative account. The Hispanic market is a major priority for a company with a CEO, Marcelo Claure, who is Bolivian-American, and a newly-hired senior VP, Roger Sole, who is from Spain and has worked for the last 13 years as a telecom marketer in Latin America.

Marcelo Claure, CEO, Sprint
Marcelo Claure, CEO, Sprint

Sprint's U.S. Hispanic review included at least a half dozen agencies.

Alma referred calls to the client, and a Sprint spokesman said in an email: "At this moment, we don't have anything to announce."

Hispanic market execs familiar with the pitch said the final step was a shootout between Alma, the winner, and Y&R's Hispanic agency Bravo, which until this year was a major AT&T agency.

Other agencies involved in the review were independent shop Zubi Advertising and LatinWorks. The Community (formerly called La Comunidad) was also involved at an early stage but didn't continue in the Sprint pitch.

LatinWorks had previously handled the launch of an AT&T brand called Aio in 2013 that AT&T discontinued after buying Cricket Wireless a year later and deciding to focus on growing that brand. Cricket's Hispanic account, as well as all Bravo's remaining AT&T business, moved to Omnicom's Dieste in April. The agency is hiring 40 people to hire the new telecom account and Alma is expected to need to hire a similar number for the Sprint business.

Interpublic's Deutsch L.A., confirmed as Sprint's creative agency of record less than six months ago, is building a Hispanic capability under the name DLAtino, but that unit may have been considered too small to staff up quickly enough to handle Sprint.

So far Sprint has lagged in Hispanic marketing compared to AT&T and T-Mobile, which rank among the top 10 advertisers to Hispanics while Sprint is barely in the top 20. AT&T is No. 2 after Procter & Gamble, spending $124 million in 2013, and T-Mobile is No. 7, at $98.7 million, according to Ad Age's Hispanic Fact Pack. Softbank Corp.-owned Sprint came in at No. 18, spending $68.6 million.

That's changing. Soon after becoming CEO of Sprint, Mr. Claure starred in a Spanish-language Sprint commercial that broke with great fanfare on Univision during the Latin Grammys broadcast in November. The spot, by Inspire, started with a chatty Mr. Claure saying "Hola, soy Marcelo Claure."

In December, Sprint hired Manuel Campos, the longtime T-Mobile account director at Hispanic shop Conill, as Hispanic marketing director for the company.

And in late April, Sprint announced the hiring of Roger Sole, a Spaniard who was most recently CMO of TIM Brasil, Telecom Italia's mobile operator in Brazil. Mr. Sole joins in the dual role of senior VP for the Hispanic market and senior VP of innovation, reporting directly to Mr. Claure. He will also be president of Sprint Puerto Rico.

At the time, Mr. Claure said in the press release about Mr. Sole's hiring: "Sprint is committed to being a market leader in the Hispanic segment. Attracting world-class talent like Roger to lead this newly- created business unit shows our commitment to this effort."

Alma, part of Omnicom Group, has been named Ad Age's Multicultural Agency of the Year for the last two years.