Growing competition and the need to promote new products and services is prompting increased sponsorship activity on behalf of wireless services providers.

In large part, wireless providers are aligning with music properties, sports teams and other opportunities to gain exclusive content they can use to gain a point of differentiation and upsell consumers on additional services.

Sponsorship activity is expected to become even more robust following AT&T Inc.’s acquisition of BellSouth Corp. The two week-old deal gives AT&T full ownership of Cingular, which the company plans to eventually rebrand under the AT&T banner.

As a result, AT&T is expected to look for more deals to build its brand and support its transition from a pure-play telco into a communications and entertainment provider.

On the activation front, wireless providers look for opportunities to engage consumers and demonstrate their technology through text-message and other types of interactive promotions. In addition, they seek opportunities to reward existing customers and build relations with hardware manufacturers.


Alltel Corp.
1 Allied Dr.
Little Rock, AR 72202

Samira Zebian, director of sponsorship marketing
501/905-8000

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: Operating as Alltel Wireless, the fifth-largest U.S. wireless service provider in terms of number of customers supplies coverage to more than 11 million subscribers in 36 states and is the dominant carrier in many small and midsize markets, as well as some larger cities such as Cleveland, Phoenix and Tampa. Uses sponsorship to build its brand, showcase new products and services, and gain content to provide to subscribers. Focuses on pro and college sports. Activates with text-message promotions offering tickets, unique experiences and other prizes.

Decision-making Structure: Zebian and Randy Wilbourn, senior vice president of corporate communications, screen opportunities with other staff from Alltel’s marketing department. Frank O’Mara, executive vice president of marketing, signs off.

Current Sponsorships: Title: Alltel Arena, North Little Rock, Ark.; Alltel Ice Den, North Scottsdale, Ariz.; Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek, Raleigh, N.C.; Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.; NASCAR Nextel Cup team. Cosponsor: University athletic programs at Arizona, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Kansas State, Michigan State, Nebraska-Lincoln, New Mexico, North Carolina A&T State, North Carolina State, Texas at El Paso, and Virginia; Atlantic Coast Conference; Central Intercollegiate Athletic Assn.; Nationwide Tour Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, Springfield, Mo.; NBA Cleveland Cavaliers; NFL Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints; NHL Phoenix Coyotes; Red River Revel Arts Festival, Shreveport, La.

Additional Comments: Alltel leverages its NASCAR team title by providing qualifying times, alerts about driver Ryan Newman and other content to subscribers. Company replaced Verizon Wireless as CIAA sponsor in October ’06. Three-year agreement gives Alltel access to CIAA content such as wallpaper, ringtones and fan alerts and a tie-in to the CIAA Basketball Tournament Fan Fest Family Fun Zone. Alltel also will use the sponsorship to host on-site job fairs at CIAA campuses for call center, retail and sales management positions.


Cingular
Glenridge Highlands Two
5565 Glenridge Connector
Atlanta, GA 30342

David Garver, executive director, segment marketing and sponsorships
404/236-6000

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: Cingular, now wholly owned by AT&T, Inc., is the nation’s largest wireless provider with more than 59 million customers. An AT&T spokesman said the company plans to rebrand the mobile service under the corporate name, but whether the wireless unit will have autonomy over its sponsorships has yet to be determined. The company does not plan to immediately drop any existing deals. Content is king for Cingular, which leverages many of its sports deals with property-focused content and has used music sponsorships to gain exclusive content to connect with a youth and young adult audience. Cingular has developed concert events around artists such as Jay-Z, Ludacris, Pussycat Dolls and Daddy Yankee.

Decision-making Structure: Garver reviews national sponsorship proposals, with final approval coming from John Burbank, vice president of marketing. He forwards local and regional opportunities to the appropriate regional marketing groups.

Current Sponsorships: Title: NASCAR Nextel Cup team. Presenting: Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade & Festival, San Francisco. Co-presenting: Vans Warped Tour. Cosponsor: Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks; AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic; Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau; Austin City Limits Music Festival; Champions Tour Regions Charity Classic presented by Bruno’s Supermarkets, Birmingham, Ala.; Florida Citrus Sports properties; Grand Prix of Denver sponsored by Bridgestone; The Houston Int’l Festival; Los Angeles County Fair; MLB Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers; MLS Real Salt Lake; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nationwide Tour Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by Dynamic Industries, Broussard, La.; NBA Detroit Pistons; NCAA; NFL Tennessee Titans; NHL Anaheim Ducks; Nissan Velocity Games, Corpus Christi, Texas; Norfolk Festevents; PetroSun Independence Bowl; Pro Rodeo Cowboys Assn.; Southeastern Conference; Tennessee Aquarium & IMAX 3D Theatre, Chattanooga; Toyota Gator Bowl; Under Armour Senior Bowl.

Additional Comments: As presenting sponsor of SECsports.com, Cingular presents all SEC Video on Demand areas on the site, and delivers scores, highlights, features, news and other conference info to subscribers. Cingular has forged partnerships with TV and online properties such as American Idol and MLB Advanced Media to gain access to content and create exclusive text message contests. Pistons tie affords title of the Cingular Club, an exclusive restaurant and seating area within the Palace of Auburn Hills. Works with agency Velocity Sports & Entertainment.


Sprint Nextel Corp.
6200 Sprint Parkway
Overland Park, KS 66251

Tom Murphy, vice president, experiential marketing
800/829-0965

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: Third-largest U.S. wireless provider sponsors to gain exclusive content for its mobile entertainment offerings to subscribers. For example, the company leverages its NFL partnership to gain exclusive live streams and on-demand content from the NFL Network, while its NASCAR tie provides access to in-car communication and other unique content. Role of music and film tie-ins has grown more important; the company plans to sign additional deals in the entertainment space this year. Targets Latino consumers through partnerships with rock en español band MANA and Bad Boy Latino, a label created by Emilio Estefan and Sean Combs.

Decision-making Structure: Sprint Nextel handles proposal submissions online at SprintProposals.com. Key contacts: Laurie Thompson, director, entertainment marketing; Amanda Moses, director, corporate events marketing; John Heiman, director, briefing centers & trade shows; Steve Gaffney, director, sports marketing; Dean Kessel, director, NASCAR Nextel Cup marketing.

Current Sponsorships: Title: NASCAR Nextel Cup Series; Sprint Center, Kansas City. Presenting: American Royal Barbeque, Kansas City. Cosponsor: American Skiing Co.; Emmy Awards; League of American Theaters & Producers; MANA tour; MLB Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals; NFL; NFL Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins; Sundance Film Festival; Tony Awards; Vail Resorts; U.S. Ski & Snowboard Assn.

Additional Comments: Used tie with Bad Boy Latino to debut Christian Daniels’ album and video through the Sprint Power Vision network prior to the broad release. Reportedly will roll out a new service this year dubbed Admission Control that will allow NASCAR fans to print tickets at home. It also uses NASCAR as a B2B play: The company credits the partnership with developing a business relationship with Jackson Hewitt and other NASCAR sponsors. Works with Octagon on sports sponsorships; Creative Artists Agency on entertainment deals; and The Vidal Partnership on Latino initiatives.


T-Mobile USA, Inc.
12920 SE 38th St.
Bellevue, WA 98006

Mike Belcher, director of sponsorships and promotions
425/378-4000

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: Fourth-largest U.S. wireless network uses sponsorship to create brand relevance and drive consideration. “We try to be a leading brand in everything that we do,” Belcher said, explaining that T-Mobile has embarked on a “fewer, bigger” approach to sponsorship, focusing on its partnerships with the NBA and the National Federation of State High School Assns. to reach the youth market and their families. Partnership with NFSHSA serves double duty: The partnership provides visibility through the inaugural T-Mobile Invitational basketball tournament while also supporting the company’s Huddle Up initiative, which connects kids from single-parent families to positive programs. Dropped T-Mobile action sports team in ’05.

Decision-making Structure: Sponsorship agency Wasserman Media Group screens and executes ties. Belcher signs off after gaining input from other marketing execs. The company also sponsors local events in markets where it has a large concentration of employees.

Current Sponsorships: Title: T-Mobile Invitational, Seattle. Cosponsor: AT&T Fiesta Broadway, Los Angeles; minor league baseball’s Newark Bears; NBA; NBA Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Seattle SuperSonics; WNBA.

Additional Comments: Samsung Telecommunications America served as official sponsor of the T-Mobile Invitational; the handset manufacturer outfitted tournament ambassadors with phones and equipped a student lounge. T-Mobile leveraged parent Deutsche Telekom AG’s sponsorship of the ’06 FIFA World Cup with promotions offering fans the chance to win a trip to the competition; the promotion helped generate a 19 percent increase in brand consideration among Latinos, Belcher said. Has endorsement deals with NBA Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade and retired NBA great Charles Barkley.


U.S. Cellular Corp.
8410 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Suite 700
Chicago, IL 60631

John Coyle, senior director, customer strategy and marketing
773/399-8900

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: Nation’s sixth-largest wireless provider, which offers service in 26 states, uses sponsorship to “break through the marketing clutter” and demonstrate its community involvement, Coyle said. Increasingly focused on title status of sports facilities and cosponsorship of grassroots properties that afford prominent positioning. “That’s more effective than being a secondary player with a medium-sized property,” Coyle said. Primary target: 18-to-24-year olds. Frequently activates with text-to-screen and picture-to-screen promotions. “We try to make it as interactive as possible. A lot of people don’t understand the technology until they use it,” he said. Uses sponsorship to make a splash in new markets. “New markets are about awareness. After two years the focus turns to sales, and then the focus turns to community support,” Coyle said.

Decision-making Structure: Screens and funds ties out of four regional offices; regional marketing managers sign off. The company accepts proposals through USCellular.com.

Current Sponsorships: Title: U.S. Cellular Arena, Milwaukee; U.S. Cellular Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Bloomington, Ill.; U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago. Presenting: Festa! Italiana, Milwaukee; Taste of Chicago; Taste of St. Louis; Wisconsin State Fair. Cosponsor: AHL Milwaukee Admirals; Double-A Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs (includes title of a seating pavilion at Hadlock Field); Knoxville Zoo; La Crosse Riverfest, Wisconsin; Milwaukee Summerfest; MLB Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals; NFL Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams; Northern Illinois
University athletics; Northwestern University athletics; Tulsa State Fair.

Additional Comments: Toured Cardinals’ ’06 World Series trophy to stores in Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. Northwestern tie affords branded headsets worn by football team coaches. Leveraged Summerfest tie with text-to-screen and picture-to-screen promotions and free music downloads from artists that performed on the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. Partners with nonprofits through its charitable giving program.


Verizon Wireless
180 Washington Valley Rd.
Bedminster, NJ 07921

Suzy Deering, director–media and sponsorships
908/306-7000

Targets/Objectives/Key Activations: With 57 million customers nationwide, Verizon Wireless is the second-largest U.S. wireless operator. The joint venture between Verizon Communications, Inc. and Vodafone Group plc sponsors a wide range of properties to promote its mobile voice services, text and picture messaging and V Cast multimedia content. The company activates new NHL deal by offering V Cast customers game video highlights and the capability to download NHL wallpaper, images and ringtones. The Latino market is a priority. Verizon served as the exclusive sponsor of Estrellas Del Futuro/Reggaeton, working in conjunction with Univision Online and Univision Movil on a weekly talent competition searching for reggaeton’s next superstar.

Decision-making Structure: John Harrobin, vice president of digital media and advertising, signs off on national programs, with input from Deering and other marketing staff. Deals also are funded out of Verizon’s five operations areas, approved by regional presidents. The company accepts proposals online at VerizonWireless.com/sponsorship. San Mateo, Calif.-based Tribal Brands screens and executes entertainment-centric ties.

Current Sponsorships: Title: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatres: Charlotte; Irvine, Calif.; Kansas City; Selma, Texas; St. Louis; Virginia Beach; Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H.; Verizon Wireless Music Centers: Pelham, Ala.; and Noblesville, Ind.; Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston. Cosponsor: Atlanta Pride Festival; Coca-Cola presents the Essence Music Festival, New Orleans; Coconut Grove Arts Festival presented by Blue Cross; Dew Action Sports Tour; Kentucky Derby Festival; Latin Grammy Awards; Los Angeles County Fair; Louisiana State University athletics; five MLB teams; three MLS teams; five NBA teams; 11 NFL teams; NHL; five NHL teams; Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre, Wantagh, NY; Richmond Int’l Raceway; Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, Ft. Lauderdale; South by Southwest, Austin, Texas; South Beach Food & Wine Festival presented by Food & Wine Magazine, Miami; State Fair of Texas; Summer and Winter X Games; Justin Timberlake tour; US Airways Center, Phoenix, Ariz.; USA Cycling Pro Championships, Greenville, S.C.; WNBA Washington Mystics.

Additional Comments: Sponsorship of US Airways Center includes title of the Verizon Wireless Jungle, a family-friendly playground that includes an interactive wall showcasing the company’s newest products and a kid-centric store. Leverages NFL team sponsorships with text message promotions; Buffalo Bills tie affords text chats with the team’s general manager and promotions offering a trip to the Super Bowl.