Sprint Launches Its First Media Agency Review in More Than a Decade

Client spent nearly $800 million in 2015

The telecom giant has been working to cut its marketing budget for more than a year.
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Telecom giant Sprint has placed its media planning and buying business in review for the first time in over 10 years. Vice president of corporate communications David Tovar confirmed that the company issued an RFP to "several firms" today including incumbent MediaVest, which has handled the account since 2011.

"MediaVest will be involved in the review," Tovar tells Adweek, adding, "We've had a great relationship with them for the last several years." A spokesperson for the agency deferred to the client for comment.

The news comes just weeks after Sprint picked Droga5 as its new U.S. creative agency of record, dropping Deutsch after two years without a review. CEO Marcelo Claure's company last held a formal media review in 2006, when it awarded planning and buying duties to WPP's Mindshare after buying rival Nextel for $35 billion.

The following year, Goodby Silverstein & Partners beat out Ogilvy & Mather to win creative agency of record duties on the business, but the client broke with Omnicom altogether in 2011 and moved its creative and digital work to a new Publicis unit called Team Sprint, which included teams drawn from Leo Burnett and Digitas. In the process, Sprint fired Mindshare, consolidating its media account with MediaVest in yet another review-free shift.

"We're in the midst of a multi-year turnaround plan," says Tovar. "One [aspect] happens to be an effort to reduce our overall operating expenses as a company by $2 billion exiting fiscal year 2016, which ends March 31. This [review] is part of that broader effort."

In keeping with that goal, Sprint made major cuts to its marketing budget. When GS&P won the review nearly a decade ago, analysts placed its annual paid media spend at $1.2 billion—but according to the most recent numbers from Kantar Media, the company spent $782 million in 2015 and $504 million during the first nine months of 2016.

The company has also gone through internal changes as competition in the telecommunications industry intensifies. Former head of Hispanic advertising Roger Solé became chief marketing officer in December 2015 and subsequently moved all production work in-house, creating a new content unit called Yellow Fan in the process.

At a conference last week, Claure addressed rumors of a potential merger with T-Mobile by calling Sprint a "formidable partner to potentially merge with another carrier," adding that he will be closely observing AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

MediaVest has lost several of its largest North American clients since late 2015 including Walmart, P&G, Coca-Cola and, most recently, Honda. The larger Publicis Media organization also picked up new pieces of business like USAA and Hewlett-Packard after major restructuring moves within its U.S. team and its Starcom Mediavest unit.