A gridiron won't be the only battleground on Sunday: The wireless industry, locked in an escalating fight for subscribers, is bringing its war to the Super Bowl.
Sprint on Wednesday night released a 30-second teaser for its spot, which will run in the third quarter, two days after T-Mobile unveiled its plan to return to the game.
In last year's Super Bowl, Sprint aired a cutesy spot promoting its '"Framily plan," with no mention of the competition. Its teaser for this year's ad suggests a very different approach. It begins with an apology to Verizon and AT&T. "We recently compared you to a sheep in an advertisement," a voiceover says in the teaser. "It was funny. It was really funny."
In November, Sprint released an ad with a braying farm animal. It was the first produced by its new agency, Deutsch L.A., which was picked after an overhaul of the company by CEO Marcelo Claure, who joined in August. The sheep spot preceded the carrier's brash plan, announced in December, to allow subscribers from the two larger wireless companies to trim their bill in half (with caveats).
"It's been very well received," CMO Jeff Hallock said of the plan. "We're taking that message to this larger stage, making sure that we make more of the country aware that this offer is available to them."
AT&T will not participate in Super Bowl this time around, a spokesman said. Verizon did not return a request for comment.
Sprint has not released details on the success of its bill-slicing offer, but analysts have attributed the recent rise in churn at Verizon and AT&T to the promotion. Earlier in January, Mr. Claure said the carrier's plan, originally slated to end on January 15, would extend throughout 2015. Sprint reports earnings on February 4.
Since arriving at Sprint, Mr. Claure pledged more aggressive advertising, a bid to claim the mantle of the value telecommunications brand from T-Mobile. "We made a shift, I think, to be a lot clearer head-to-head on value," Mr. Hallock said.
Mr. Hallock is departing the company by April, part of a trio of executives exiting amid change in the C-suite.
Last week, the carrier went after T-Mobile -- it made a new offer of $350 to T-Mobile subscribers who switch over. Mr. Hallock said Sprint is running targeted digital marketing for that plan, but is reserving its broadcast work for the campaign targeting the larger competitors.
Its newest ad gunning for Verizon and AT&T will mark the fourth Super Bowl appearance for Sprint. Sprint said it will not release the full ad before the game. Mr. Hallock hinted the spot will pack a surprise that warrants its secrecy.
"We just made the decision this year," he said. "Hopefully when you see it, you'll understand why."
Sprint is the 23rd largest U.S. advertiser, spending $1.6 billion in 2013, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. In its most recent quarter, the carrier reported revenue of $8.5 billion and a net loss of 272,000 postpaid subscribers.