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July 15th, 2016

Betrayal in Brand Land – Following Sprint’s Lead



By Brokaw Director of Brand Strategy, Tim Laubacher

In June, if you had the pleasure of joining a record number of Americans watching the 2016 NBA Finals (#Believeland), you probably noticed a certain cell phone provider character/spokesperson wearing the wrong color. Paul Marcarelli, the bespeckled one-time Verizon pitchman, debuted in a Sprint ad directly attacking the market leader. “It’s 2016 and every network is great.” Talk about a case of brand betrayal. This was a professional wrestling caliber turn of events.

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Consider how would it change the ad landscape if other brands stole competitive spokespeople:

  • What if the Taco Bell Chihuahua returned to yo quiero Chipotle out of its current quandary?
  • Or if Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World returned from Mars to occasionally sip a Corona?
  • Or if Peyton Manning went from trading smooches with Papa John to making Pizza Hut his new “Omaha“?
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No doubt, seeing the Verizon “Can you hear me now?” guy in a Sprint spot was undoubtedly jarring. Yes, Sprint, we hear you now. But was it differentiating? Does the message have sticking power that reframes the conversation and benefits Sprint? Or is this “me too” advertising at its worst? Time will tell.

In the meantime, let’s all revel in the greatest face-to-heel-to-face turn in the history of professional sports—which worked out pretty darn well for America’s favorite city.

Until the next major act of pitchman piracy, have a weekend worth imitating.

-Your puppet master friends at Brokaw.