Power Players 2009

Sprint Nextel's Bill Morgan Is Ad Age's No. 25 Power Player

A Post-Merger Identity Crisis and Rough Customer Service Plague Carrier

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Last Year
THE POWER: Since its troubled merger with Nextel in 2005, Sprint has been trying to figure out what it ought to stand for. Now under Bill Morgan, 52, Sprint's marketing head for nearly a year, the carrier is straddling a messaging strategy that talks both value and technological leadership. Its "Now Network" campaign, which demonstrates all the activities happening on its 3G network and introduces its 4G network, took home several prizes at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. And showing it has something for the sour economic times, Sprint's value positioning has sought to play up its unlimited voice and data plan.

THE NUMBERS: The No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier commands about 18% of the market share, and it lost nearly a million contract customers in the second quarter. Boost Mobile, Sprint's prepaid unit, has been a bright spot, adding a net 777,000 customers in the second quarter. Measured media spending in the first half of 2009 soared by nearly 60 percent year-over-year to $646 million. 2008 measured spending was $937 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: The most senior member of Mr. Morgan's team, Mike Goff, VP-brand and national advertising, helps manage brand strategy, with responsibilities for direct marketing, retail communications, marketing operations and agency management. Other members of the team include Steve Gaffney, who looks after sponsorships and entertainment marketing, and Simon McPhillips, who is responsible for media strategy.

THE CHALLENGE: Once a top-tier carrier, Sprint has struggled to find a positioning that resonates with consumers. Since merging with Nextel, it has been mired in technical and customer-service problems that have led to a customer exodus in the millions. Though it won the exclusive right to carry the Palm Pre smartphone, the momentum behind the widely hyped iPhone contender has been waning as new challengers crowd the shelves, and Sprint's run as the exclusive carrier for the phone is expected to end next year, leaving a void in its high-end smartphone line-up.

THE AGENCIES: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is Sprint's agency of record; Mindshare handles media. Euro RSCG has duties for direct and e-mail marketing.

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