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Super Bowl

Why T-Mobile Bought Three Minutes of Ads in Super Bowl LI

By Published on .

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T-Mobile made its biggest Super Bowl ad buy yet, running three minutes of commercials during the big game.

The wireless carrier tapped a roster of celebrities including Justin Bieber, Martha Stewart, Snoop Dogg and Kristen Schaal to promote its unlimited data plan.

With its four ads, T-Mobile sought to celebrate unlimited data, while also poking fun at the pain people feel over their wireless bills, said Peter DeLuca, senior VP-brand and advertising, T-Mobile.

"We wanted to take this message through the game and create an event," Mr. DeLuca said.

The wireless carrier scheduled one 60-second commericial in the first quarter, two 30-second ads in the third quarter and a 60-second final spot in the fourth. That puts it on par with Anheuser-Busch InBev, a regular Super Bowl big spender that also aired three minutes of commercials, albeit for a bouquet of brands: Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch and Michelob Ultra.

A 30-second spot in Super Bowl LI cost marketers around $5 million, according to people familiar with negotiations.

Mr. DeLuca said T-Mobile initially bought 90 seconds of commercial time in the game but expanded that as it developed the creative.

T-Mobile released one of its spots in the week leading up to the game. In that 60-second ad, Mr. Bieber dances along with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and NFL six-time Pro Bowler Terrell Owens.

Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, who star together in the VH1 series "Martha & Snoop's Pot Luck Dinner Party," star in a humorous 30-second spot where they compare T-Mobile unlimited data to purple cushy throw pillows, herb-roasted lamb chops and greenery for your topiary garden.

There's also a pair of commercials starring Kristen Schaal, who enjoys being punished when she goes over her data limits.

T-Mobile has had a prominent place in the Super Bowl the last several years. Last year it ran two spots, one starring Drake and the other Steve Harvey. It has also tapped Kim Kardashian, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler and Tim Tebow for prior Super Bowl commercials.

While some years it has had the field to itself, in Super Bowl LI it faced rival advertising from Sprint.