T-Mobile turns to Super Bowl to give customers free Taco Bell, Lyft rides

The company's Big Game ads promoted its three-year-old rewards program, T-Mobile Tuesdays

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T-Mobile ran a commercial in each quarter during its sixth Super Bowl appearance on Sunday, part of a broader effort to jumpstart a generous rewards program that its customers have mostly ignored.

T-Mobile Tuesdays, which debuted in 2016, is a rewards program that gives away freebies such as Papa John's pizza, socks and even pricey digital goods, like one-year of MLB.TV, a $115 value. On game day, the company announced a new partnership with Taco Bell, giving customers free tacos once a week. Also front-and-center was the company's long-standing partnership with Lyft, where T-Mobile customers can capture a $10 ride credit through its rewards offering.

Yet despite the free goodies, only 4 million of T-Mobile's 74 million customers use the service each month, Nick Drake, CMO at T-Mobile, says. The goal of the company's four-ad Super Bowl blitz is to get more customers to use its rewards program more often. It also wants to force its rivals into adopting— or promoting—a similar rewards offering, a key pillar in T-Mobile's "Un-Carrier" marketing message.

"The core purpose of T-Mobile is to change wireless for good and forcing others to follow us," Drake says.

Drake adds that T-Mobile has led its competitors to adopt 17 different initiatives that the wireless carrier first started, some of which include unlimited data or no contracts. Verizon, for example, also has its own rewards program called "Verizon Up," which it started roughly a year after T-Mobile's. That program offers daily rewards, including $5 off Starbucks coffee or exclusive seating at Justin Timberlake concerts.

Meanwhile, the style or theme of the ads – in which different duos humorously text each other back-and-forth – will continue in future campaigns well beyond just the Super Bowl, Drake says. "This is just the start," he says. "Our customers spend far more time texting than calling so it will be more interesting to tell stories the way customers actually engage."

Overall, Drake says the company has given away a total of $186 million worth of free goods through its rewards program.

Customers can claim rewards through the T-Mobile Tuesdays app, and other brands such as Papa Johns, Dunkin Donuts, PetSmart, Amazon Music are already part of the program. The creative was handled by Panay Films, a creative agency who has writers with credits in movies such as "Hot Tub Time Machine" and "Wedding Crashers," according to Drake.

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