Telco Tries to ‘Sprint Ahead’ With Goodby’s 1st Work

NEW YORK Sprint, a $1.2 billion advertiser, will launch its first work from Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein + Partners positioning itself as forward-thinking while its rivals (such as market leader AT&T and number two Verizon) use ads to play up their abilities to handle current technology snafus like dropped calls and limited coverage.

This will be the third rebranding effort for the carrier in as many years. The new campaign from Goodby, which launches on Monday, uses the tag line “Sprint ahead.” That same line was used briefly in 1998 by Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson when it handled the brand.

“We’ve revived it. It’s in a different kind of context,” said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of San Francisco-based Goodby. “It was about telephone long-distance in those days, these days it’s about speed.” This marks the San Francisco-based agency’s first Sprint effort since winning the business in March.

In addition to “Sprint ahead,” the company is introducing “Sprint Speed,” a component of the overall branding initiative designed to show that its phones are fast.

“We’re in a category that underdelivers on its potential because so many of the carriers have focused on the shortcoming,” said Tim Kelly, Sprint’s CMO. “Our view is that there’s something great about wireless that’s being lost.”

Sprint’s campaign comes as Apple is set to introduce its much-hyped iPhone, which is expected to sell out quickly when it is released on Friday. “The iPhone will generate a lot of interest in the category and that raises all the boats,” said Kelly.

“The iPhone is a product from Apple. It’s a cool device, but it’s a product launch. We’re talking about a repositioning of our brand,” he said.

In November of last year, the company attempted to position itself as empowering consumers with the phrase “Power up” in a campaign from Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York featuring the actor Ron Livingston. Before that, “Yes you can” was the company’s tagline.

Asked why he expects this latest positioning to succeed, Kelly said: “It’s very benefit oriented, and puts the customer at the heart of the communication. This advertising taps in to how customers wants to experience service and brings emotion much more into it than we had in past.”

The campaign will initially consist of two 30-second TV spots, outdoor, print and online, as well as a redesign of the Sprint.com Web site. The company spends about $1.2 billion annually on ads.

In “Dreams,” a series of artists creates simple artistic images, such as jump ropes and stars, out of flashlights on a darkened street. As a narrator talks about a magic screen holding your favorite music, pictures and stories, additional images made of light continue to play across the screen. It ends with the tagline, “Sprint ahead.”

“If we’re successful, Sprint Speed will be our Nike Air, a real demonstration of how we’re taking people ahead,” said Kelly.

This story updates and corrects an earlier item to reflect the fact that Sprint’s 1998 tagline, not the company’s overall brand positioning, has been revisited.