Sprint promises more famous switchers will follow Verizon's 'Can you hear me now' guy, Paul Marcarelli

Sprint (NYSE: S) yesterday launched a new ad campaign featuring Verizon's retired "Can you hear me now?" spokesman and his switch to Sprint service, and a Sprint executive promised the carrier will announce additional well-known people in the future as part of its "The switch is real" marketing effort. The effort is intended to entice Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) customers to Sprint by arguing the carrier's network is as reliable as the networks of its larger rivals.

"There may be other people you recognize in future campaigns," David Tovar, VP of Sprint's corporate communications, told FierceWireless. Tovar declined to name any of Sprint's planned additional switchers, noting that some agreements have not yet been finalized.

Sprint yesterday announced that Paul Marcarelli, the actor who played the "Can you hear me now?" spokesman in Verizon's successful decade-long advertising campaign, will appear in new Sprint ads, and that Marcarelli "is now a Sprint customer." Sprint's advertising featuring Marcarelli made its debut on ABC during Game 2 of the NBA Finals, and Marcarelli cites Nielsen research showing there is a 1 percent difference in the reliability ratings of Sprint's network compared with AT&T and Verizon's network. "Does anyone even really notice a difference of less than 1%? But when it comes to saving money… Sprint is by far the best choice for consumers," Marcarelli said in a Sprint press release. "You get a highly reliable network and save 50% off most of the rates other national wireless carriers charge. Now that is noticeable."

Tovar declined to discuss the financial relationship between Sprint and Marcarelli, and USA Today reported that Sprint was not making Marcarelli available for interviews. Tovar also declined to comment on whether Marcarelli had any contractual obligations to Verizon due to his longstanding relationship with the carrier -- Marcarelli worked for Verizon from 2002 to 2011.

"The phrase that he used in those ads became part of the lexicon in this country and around the world really," Tovar said of Marcarelli's "Can you hear me now?" ads. Tovar explained that the ad campaign arose from discussions among Sprint's in-house and external ad teams, along with CEO Marcelo Claure. He said Sprint approached Marcarelli about the opportunity a few weeks ago and was able to quickly ink the agreement and launch the campaign.

When questioned about Marcarelli's switch, a Verizon spokesman provided this statement to FierceWireless: "Our focus remains the same: working to providing Verizon customers with an even better wireless network experience today than we did yesterday. While the discount carriers talk in their ads about improving in hopes they can convince people that 'every network is great,' Verizon takes action to keep our network performance ahead of the competition and at the level our customers expect -- we've now invested more than $111 billion in our network since 2000, including more than $11 billion last year alone. That's a consistent, long-term commitment to network investment that no wireless company can match."

Tovar said Sprint would continue to air its Marcarelli ads across TV, print, billboard, radio, social and digital ads for the next few weeks or months, depending on how they perform. Tovar, however, declined to provide any financial details about the campaign, noting only that it falls under Sprint's "The switch is real" hashtag. "We'd like to see this campaign go on for a while," he said. "We are behind this campaign 100 percent."

For more:
- see this Sprint release
- see this USA Today article

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