While their marketing budgets may not be as deep as AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and other wireless service providers, the world’s leading cell phone manufacturers are quickly making up lost ground. 

Both established and upstart cell phone marketers are signing new deals to hype new products, promote brand positioning, gain platforms for retail promotions and fend off competition from Apple Inc.’s widely successful iPhone.

That activity is fueled in part by the growing number of Chinese, Korean and other Asian imports looking to build their brands in the U.S. market. Case in point: Pantech Wireless, Inc. earlier this year announced a new partnership with the Dew Tour and Winter Dew Tour, while Huawei Technologies Co. has teamed with MetroPCS Communications, Inc. to co-present Enrique Iglesias’ fall 2011 tour.

Some of the industry’s more established players also have recently expanded their portfolios. LG Electronics Mobilecomm U.S.A., Inc. last month sponsored Milk Made Fashion Week in New York City. The company earlier this year sponsored the Ones to Watch concert tour featuring The Dirty Heads and other bands.

Cell phone makers also have been active outside the U.S. Motorola Mobility UK Ltd. earlier this month announced a new partnership with NFL in the U.K., a tie that supports its parent’s long-running sponsorship of the pro football league. In addition, Nokia Corp. in August announced four-year title of the Champions League Twenty20 cricket competition in India.

Nokia also is reportedly gearing up a massive marketing campaign around last week’s launch of the Lumia smartphone. The  beleaguered company—whose global market share fell from 34.7% in the second-quarter of 2010 to 24.5% in 2Q 2011—is expected to use a heavy dose of experiential marketing to support the  “Amazing Everyday” campaign and reenergize its brand.  

While Nokia cell phone shipments have declined, the overall industry has posted solid growth. Global handset shipments grew 13 percent to 361 million units in the 2Q 2011, up from 320 million in the year-earlier period, according to Strategy Analytics, a market research and consulting firm.

Sponsorship Hot Buttons For The Cell Phone Category
Below, IEG SR highlights four things to consider when pitching wireless handset manufacturers:

Help promote new phones. Like other consumer electronics marketers, cell phone makers frequently use sponsorship to demonstrate new products.

For example, Pantech uses The Dew Tour to promote the Pursuit II and Breeze III, both of which were rolled out this summer.

“Dew Tour is a perfect platform for the Pantech brand that allows us to directly interact with our core audience,” said Erin Magee, Pantech’s director of channel marketing, in a statement.

Cell phone makers also use sponsorship to tout product functionality. LG Electronics earlier this year hosted a private New York City performance by Jane’s Addiction to promote the launch of the Thrill 3D smartphone. Concert-goers used the camera to capture footage of the concert; LG used the content to create a 60-minute documentary that was posted on the LG Thrill YouTube channel.

Offer platforms for retail promotions. Cell phone companies frequently look for tickets and other inventory that can be used to drive store traffic.

Pantech leverages the Dew Tour with appearances by Team Pantech members at local AT&T stores. The team includes skateboarder Bucky Lasek, BMXer Brett Banasiewicz and two other action sports stars.

Provide content from Apps. Cell phone companies are increasingly activating deals with cell phone Apps that offer event updates and behind-the-scenes content.

Case in point: Pantech offers schedules, results, athlete bios and other content on the Dew Tour App, while Research in Motion Ltd. has developed a Blackberry App around its new tie with the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

In addition, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB this year leveraged its title of the Sony Ericsson Open ATP/WTA tournament in Miami with a smartphone App that offered game results and other information.

Make room for service providers. Cell phone companies almost always sponsor with wireless service providers, and vice versa. As such, sponsorships in the handset category typically include pass-through rights for service providers.

LG Electronics Mobilecomm U.S.A., Inc.
10101 Old Grove Rd.
San Diego, CA 92131

Carl Brown, director of trade marketing

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: LG largely focuses on music and fashion to promote its contemporary, hip positioning. On the fashion front, the telco this year inked a new partnership with Milk Made Fashion Week in New York City, around which it hosted a panel on technology and fashion. In the music space, LG sponsored the Ones to Watch concert tour that featured The Dirty Heads and other up-and-coming bands. The company also hosted a July 25 concert by Jane’s Addiction to promote the launch of the Thrill 4G 3D phone. Audience members used the phone to capture footage of the concert using the device.

Current Deals: Ones to Watch powered by LG concert tour, 44 stops; Milk Made Fashion Week, New York City.

Additional Comments: LG uses NCAA partnership to promote mobile phones, consumer electronics and home appliances.


Motorola Mobility, Inc.
600 N. US Highway 45
Libertyville, IL 60048

Bill Ogle, senior vice president, chief marketing officer

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: Motorola Mobility was formed in early 2011 following the spin-off of Motorola’s smartphone business into a stand-alone company. The company was subsequently purchased by Google Inc. in a roughly $12.5 billion transaction. Motorola largely focuses on its long-running partnership with the NFL; the company recently expanded the partnership with a tie to the NFL in the U.K. The sponsorship afforded rights to the Oct. 23 game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at London’s Wembley Stadium. Motorola is activating the tie through www.Motorola.co.uk/NFL; consumers that visit the site can play an online game that dangles a VIP trip to the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Motorola’s NFL tie includes marketing rights with the league’s 32 teams.

Current Deals: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am; MLB Chicago White Sox; NBA New Orleans Hornets; NFL.

Additional Comments: Leverages St. Louis Rams and other NFL teams with Motorola Tweet the Headline social media campaign. Deal with NBA New Orleans Hornets is largely in trade. Motorola Solutions, Inc.’s portfolio includes Wisconsin’s EAA Airventure Oshkosh and the WNBA Chicago Sky.


Nokia USA
102 Corporate Park Dr.
White Plains, NY 10604

Chris Weber, president

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy:  The world’s largest cell phone manufacturer has trimmed its sponsorship portfolio amid declining market share. The Espoo, Finland-based company focuses on the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, a tie it largely uses for brand exposure. Sponsors Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships to support partnership with snowboard maker The Burton Corp.; the two companies have used the tie to develop Push Snowboarding, a technology that promotes the snowboarding experience through Nokia phones. Nokia is reportedly gearing up a major marketing campaign to promote the new Lumia smartphone.

Current Deals: Title: Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. Cosponsor: Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships; MLB San Diego Padres; Monterey Bay Aquarium, Calif.

Additional Comments: While Nokia has cut back on ties in the U.S., it has signed a handful of new partnerships in other markets. Ties include five-year title of the Champion League Twenty20 cricket tournament in India and an expanded partnership in 2012 with the FIFA World Rally Championship.


Research In Motion Ltd.
295 Phillip St.
Waterloo, ON N2L 3W8

Roger Baxter, vice president, brand communications

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy:  The marketer of the ubiquitous Blackberry has cut back its sponsorship portfolio this year in the face of increased competition from Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android devices, employee defections and slipping market share. Dropped ties include the NHL and mega music tours such as U2 and the Black Eyed Peas. On the flip side, RIM this year inked a new tie with Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. On the music front, Blackberry earlier this year teamed with the Foo Fighters on a promotion that dangled the chance for the band to play a live performance in the garages of eight lucky fans; the promotion supported Wasting Light, an album recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage.

Current Deals: Rugby World Cup, New Zealand; Food Lion Speed Street 600 Festival, Charlotte, N.C.; NHL Florida Panthers.

Additional Comments: Rugby World Cup affords exclusivity in the handheld mobile device category; RIM is activating the tie with a free App that offers live match scores, game highlights and other information. Recently launched BBM Challenge, a promotion that gives teens and twenty-something’s the chance to become a protégé of one of six young adult celebrities including actress Michelle Trachtenberg, singer Greyson Chance and celebrity blogger Jared Eng.


Samsung Telecommunications America, LLC
1301 E. Lookout Dr.
Richardson, Texas 75082

Paul Golden, chief marketing officer

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: Samsung is using its co-presenting sponsorship of Keith Urban’s Get Closer world tour to promote the Infuse 4G device. The telco is activating the tie by having Urban use the phone to post vignettes on www.KeithUrban.net. Samsung is promoting the phone at tour stops with green screen photo ops and brand ambassadors who take photos of attendees. Samsung and AT&T also are activating with a Facebook promotion that dangles backstage passes; consumers have to like the page to enter the contest.  

Current Deals: Title: Samsung Mobile 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, Texas. Co-presenting: Keith Urban Tour; Rohto Ironman 70.3 Miami. Cosponsor: MLS Seattle Sounders FC; Texas Motor Speedway.

Additional Comments: Sponsors Urban tour with AT&T.


Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB
Nya Vattentornet
Lund, Sweden 221 88

Stephan Croix, vice president and head of global marketing partnerships

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: Joint venture between Sony Corp. and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson uses its six-year-old tie with the WTA as a global marketing platform. The company this year used the sponsorship to promote Xperia Play, a new smartphone and mobile gaming device. Sony Ericsson activated the tennis tour with Xperia Hot Shots, an online reality program designed to give tennis fans an inside look at the life of rising female tennis stars. Sony Ericsson spokesperson and WTA pro Maria Sharapova unveiled the athletes during a media event in Miami Beach prior to the start of the WTA Sony Ericsson Open. The company this year also inked a new tie with Major League Gaming on behalf of Xperia Play. 

Current Deals: Title: Sony Ericsson Open ATP/WTA tournament, Miami. Cosponsor: Major League Gaming; WTA.

Additional Comments: Sony Ericsson is in the second year of a three-year sponsorship of the WTA. The company restructured the tie in 2009 after titling the tour from 2005 through 2010.

Global Handset Vendor Market Share
Company Q2 2010 Q2 2011
Nokia 34.7% 24.5%
Samsung 19.9% 20.5%
LG 9.6% 6.9%
Apple 2.6% 5.6%
ZTE 3.3% 5.0%
Others 29.9% 37.5%