T-Mobile is adding a new extension to its local sponsorship strategy.

The U.S. unit of Deutsche Telekom plans to expand its sponsorship portfolio (Major League Baseball, T-Mobile Arena, American Music Awards, etc.) with ties to local properties in new and underperforming markets.

“One of the priorities for T-Mobile going forward is going deeper in the community, going deeper locally,” said Meredith Starkey, T-Mobile vice president of sponsorship and events, in her presentation at IEG 2018.

T-Mobile, which has more than doubled its customer base over the past five years, is focusing the sponsorship push on new markets, with an eye on rural and suburban locations. The company opened more than 1,000 stores in 2017 in markets ranging from Fargo, N.D. to Frisco and Plano, Texas.

T-Mobile is likely to surpass AT&T in the total number of retail stores it operates across the country, despite AT&T having almost twice the number of wireless subscribers, according to a January report from Wave7 Research, a market research firm.

The sponsorship push follows network improvements in the Mid-America region.

“One area of growth is the heartland, an area where we haven’t had a great network experience in the past. We can now deliver a great product and a great experience.”

In addition to new markets, T-Mobile plans to sign deals in Chicago, Houston and other “opportunity markets” where it is underperforming.

“Chicago is a great example. “We have a kickass network and incredible distribution, but we are underperforming relative to share of the market. Much of that is attributed to how we used to have a very poor network experience in Chicago. We need to shift consideration and perception in those markets.”

The company has created an experiential and local marketing department to support the new strategy, added Starkey, noting that the department sits within the company’s sponsorship and events department.

T-Mobile previously focused on aligning local investments under its national sports platforms. That largely centered on sponsoring MLB teams in support of its league partnership.

T-Mobile will continue the sports-centric strategy, said Starkey.

“Sports provide mass reach, are nationally and locally relevant and provide compelling content. We align our local sponsorship dollars under national platforms to make things work harder and drive results. Our results are exponentially higher than if we did not pursue that approach.”