Meet the CMOs: Sprint’s Solé shows mixed results with Verizon’s former pitchman, Paul Macarelli

Roger Sole, Sprint's chief marketing officer

CMO: Roger Solé

Biography

Solé will go down in telecom history for successfully nabbing Verizon Wireless’ former pitchman, Paul Macarelli, to be the face of Sprint’s #ThatWirelessGuy campaign. At Verizon, Macarelli was best known for his “Can you hear me now?” line about network reliability. In his new commercials for Sprint, consumers hear Macarelli say: “Can you hear that?”

After taking over the CMO position at Sprint in 2015, Solé oversaw a number of programs:

  • 50% off Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile rate plans
  • Unlimited Freedom wireless plans
  • iPhone Forever handset program

As Sprint’s CMO, Solé oversees Sprint products and services, brand and advertising, customer acquisition and retention.

Earlier, Solé served as Sprint’s SVP of advertising and acquisition for Hispanic market and innovation, as well as president of Puerto Rico. He has also overseen Pinsight Media, Sprint's mobile advertising division, and the startup-mentorship program Sprint Accelerator. Solé came to Sprint from TIM Brasil, where he was CMO.

How much money does the company spend on advertising?

Sprint’s overall selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses for 2016 were $2.08 billion, down from $2.13 billion in 2015. The wireless carrier’s sales and marketing expenses decreased $159 million for the nine-month period that ended in December 2016. It attributed the decrease in the nine-month period to lower overall marketing spending as a result of cost-cutting initiatives.

What’s the company’s marketing message?

Sprint has positioned itself to connect with customers on their terms and conditions via its “Works for Me” advertising message. The wireless carrier’s commercials feature user interviews. By citing real-world wireless users, Sprint is hoping to illustrate how customers can apply Sprint’s wireless service that best fits their own usage needs.

Specifically, Sprint’s messaging argues that there’s a 1% difference in network reliability between its network and that of Verizon. Sprint uses that figure to underscore its much less expensive services.

What’s the company’s advertising strategy?

With an advertising budget it said is nearly 30% less than that of its nearest competitor, Sprint said its advertising strategy is focused on being digitally led and mobile-first, using multiple data sources to better understand consumer behaviors to drive both subscriber growth and retention. As part of this multi-faceted strategy Sprint is focusing its advertising efforts on a mix of digital, mobile and social media channels that follow consumers’ varying media habits.

On the social media front, the wireless operator has created a "full funnel" campaign with Facebook to drive awareness and identify customers more receptive to its offers. Sprint is also leveraging Twitter’s new ad products. Increasingly, Sprint has used a mix of linear, online and mobile video to conduct more precise targeting to showcase its advertising campaigns. Finally, the wireless carrier uses local radio and outdoor advertising to reinforce its messaging and offers in key local markets.

Is the company’s advertising successful

Sprint’s "Paul Switched" ad was recognized as the Best Ad of 2016 by Ad Week. The wireless carrier recently transitioned to Droga5 as its advertising agency—the firm created the "Works for Me” campaign that currently features Topher Brophy and his dog Rosenberg, Instagram sensations recently profiled in People Magazine.

However, Sprint’s latest quarterly results offer a decidedly mixed picture on its progress. The network operator lost 118,000 postpaid customers overall during the quarter, and added only a total of 187,000 connections.