SPRINT NEXTEL MERGER WINS FINAL APPROVAL
Both FCC and Justice Department Bless Deal
SPRINT NAME TO DOMINATE AFTER MERGER WITH NEXTEL
Ads Will Still Refer to Nextel Brand and Technology
TBWA NAMED AOR FOR SPRINT/NEXTEL BRAND LAUNCH
Publicis & Hal Riney to Get Only B-to-B Work
SPRINT-NEXTEL MERGER TRIGGERS AD AGENCY BATTLE
TBWA/Chiat/Day and Hal Riney Face Off Over $1 Billion Account
NEXTEL/NASCAR DEAL REMAINS INTACT IF NEXTEL/SPRINT HAPPENS
Racing Officials Cite 10-Year Sponsorship Contract
SPRINT AND NEXTEL PLAN $35 BILLION MERGER
Move Would Meld Two Different Marketing Worlds Together
In addition to Nextel's Nascar contract, Sprint last month signed a five-year, $600 million deal for exclusive cell phone content with the National Football League. It also earlier this year renewed its exclusive sponsorship of the U.S. Ski & Sports Association.
Sprint also has a contract with the National Hockey League. There are no deals in the works with the National Basketball Association or Major League Baseball, according to a spokesman.
40 million subscribers
The new Sprint, with 40 million subscribers, is also adopting a new marketing stance that boasts it "will challenge the rules, end limitations and stand against restriction." The company's new advertising tagline is: "Yes, you can." The Nextel "Done" tagline has been dropped.
In blending the two companies, the dominant advertising creative is centered on the Nextel look and feel, with bold yellow background and black type. A modified Sprint logo, represented by an abstract graphic of Sprint's long-running "Pin drop" campaign, will appear in print ads, and the campaign's "ping" sound will be heard on broadcast spots. Gone from the ads is the black-trench-coat-wearing government-agent type "Sprint guy," played by actor Brian Baker, who solved callers' problems with poor reception or unfair cell phone offers. Chief Marketing Officer Mark Schweitzer called that campaign part of Sprint's "history" and said it was dropped to ensure consumers would view the merged company in a new light.
New TV spots
TV spots launching the brand include "The Power of Two," celebrating the effect of great pairing throughout history. Another spot shows a man with many choices, such as a sink with faucets labeled hot, tepid, chilly and cold. To underscore Nextel's Nascar sponsorship, one spot focuses on great moments in Nascar history, concluding with the "great moment" of the Sprint Nextel merger. A name change for the Nascar cup is not likely for at least one year.
Although a number of executives estimated the new advertising campaign budget would be as large as $500 million, Mr. Schweitzer declined to give spending specifics but said the $500 million figure was high. Cingular Wireless, when it merged last year with AT&T Wireless, spent about $300 million to relaunch its brand.
Agency reassessment planned
Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, formerly Nextel's agency, is the lead agency on creative for the national brand and consumer efforts, while Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, formerly Sprint's agency, handles business-to-business duties. Mr. Schweitzer said that while all agencies, including Hispanic, direct marketing and media shops, working on the accounts had adequate assignments to keep them busy, he indicated he would reassess agency resources in the first quarter of 2006.
On the retail front, some 1,600 Sprint and Nextel stores will be rebranded by Sept. 2.
Top four carriers
With the completion of the merger, the top four national carriers represent some 85% of total U.S. cell phone subscribers, according to a Standard & Poor's industry survey. The number of subscribers is expected to grow between 6% and 8% to around 190 million to 195 million in 2005, the report said. "With wireless penetration of the U.S. market above 60%, wireless carriers are strengthening their customer retention strategies," the report said.