Verizon kicks off Super Bowl return with futuristic 5G wearables for firefighters
Verizon confirmed to Ad Age Friday that it will be returning to the Super Bowl this year, marking its third consecutive appearance at the Big Game.
The wireless provider has yet to release its 60-second Super Bowl commercial, but it says the spot will air during the first half of the game.
Until then, Verizon is airing a total of three commercials to build momentum for its forthcoming campaign, which once again thanks first responders. But, in a first, Verizon will also turn the spotlight on 5G technology, demonstrating how 5G can potentially save lives. The first two spots will appear during NFL Championship Sunday, while the third pre-Super Bowl commercial will air during the NFL Pro Bowl on Jan. 26. The company worked with McCann New York on the creative.
The focus on 5G comes after rival T-Mobile became the first carrier to launch nationwide 5G coverage. Although T-Mobile hasn’t announced if it’s returning to the Super Bowl, the company has appeared in the Big Game for six consecutive seasons. And while Verizon does have 5G coverage in nearly a dozen cities, it doesn’t offer nationwide coverage, something it hopes to achieve later this year.
“It is going to be a heightened competitive market around 5G,” says Andrew McKechnie, chief creative officer at Verizon. “While we will talk about 5G, it will be in the context of first responders and how we have an impact with them.”
Meanwhile, AT&T confirmed to Ad Age that it has no plans surrounding the Super Bowl this year.
Futuristic 5G wearables for firefighters
In one spot, Verizon shows a firefighter wearing augmented-reality-powered glasses as he fights his way through a smoke-filled building during what appears to be a rescue attempt. It’s initially difficult to see much of anything in the video, but that soon changes once his wearable digitizes the room, allowing him to see through smoke as if he was in the “Matrix.”
Such technology isn’t available today, but it is being developed at Verizon’s 5G Labs, which is an initiative within the company to develop use cases for 5G technology’s unprecedented speeds.
“Firefighters are dealing with archaic technology,” says McKechnie. “The technology hasn’t changed for them in hundreds of years. They have masks, but no new tools to help them navigate fire situations.”
Verizon’s continued focus on first responders shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the company serves an overwhelming number of government agencies. In 2018, for instance, Verizon debuted a Super Bowl spot that essentially said, “When your life is on the line, you don’t want a service that just works, but the very best available.” That ad showed a real-life rescue attempt by first-responders.
Both ads are also narrated by a Verizon engineer, which plays on Chief Marketing Officer Diego Scotti’s initiative to include real people in the company’s commercials.
Super Bowl goes 5G
Verizon will become the first carrier to power a Super Bowl stadium with 5G technology. Last December, Verizon launched 5G coverage in Miami, home of this year’s Super Bowl. McKechnie says Verizon has 17 stadiums that are now powered by 5G.
“People can go into this experience and get an immersive view of how we are thinking about 5G applications,” he says. “It will change the game in interesting ways.”
Some of those plans include in-stadium multi-camera streams that fans can experience. Others, such as the Pro Bowl, will “transport viewers onto the field and give them a real-time view of the game,” says McKechnie.
“5G is much more than just speed,” McKechnie adds. “The competitors have muddied the waters of what the perception of 5G should be. We have developed applications and other programs that allow us to demonstrate what we are able to actually do and give people and fans a taste of what 5G is capable of.”