T-Mobile, Verizon build suspense over Super Bowl ads

The Super Bowl is always a great time for wireless carriers to showcase their coverage and capacity. This year, the battle seems to be over a different kind of airwaves: the old-fashioned Super Bowl commercial.

Is Beyoncé going to make an appearance in Verizon’s ad during the Super Bowl? Fans are buzzing, for some pretty good reasons. Last year, Verizon was a no-show for advertising during the Super Bowl, so maybe it’s making up for lost time? (It did pay for a spot post-game last year, touting its role as the Official 5G Network of the NFL, so there’s that.)

*Update on Monday, Feb. 12: In an ad that ran shortly after halftime, Beyoncé employed various tactics to break Verizon’s network, none of which worked, of course, and then ended with a tease of her new music. The ad garnered plenty of headlines – case closed!

Advertisers pay up to $7 million for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl, and that’s not counting what it costs to create the spots. No doubt, there will be plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking to hash out whether all that cash was worth it.

Verizon isn’t the only one. T-Mobile snagged “Aquaman” actor Jason Momoa to sing and dance along to a “Flashdance” tune with “Scrubs” stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison for its Super Bowl ad. While they’re busy singing the praises of T-Mobile’s 5G home internet, they pay homage to the 1983 movie with a cameo by none other than Jennifer Beals.

Since it released the commercial early, T-Mobile’s already getting accolades for its effectiveness.

But it queued up a second ad to run during the big game to spread the word about its recently unveiled Magenta Status program. (For those curious, T-Mobile offers and 8-minute video explaining the loyalty program here.) That ad was not yet viewable as of press time. “Stay tuned for more leading up to Super Bowl Sunday,” a T-Mobile spokesperson teased.

*Update: T-Mobile released its second ad, airing in the second quarter of the game, featuring a star-studded cast

Both T-Mobile and Verizon are planning to run ads for their prepaid services during the Spanish-language Super Bowl broadcast on Univision. In a Metro by T-Mobile ad, Puerto Rican actor Luis Guzman joins in the mission to overturn the “yada yada” in wireless. T-Mobile released a teaser here.

The Total by Verizon ad, which will run during the first commercial break of the second quarter, was directed by comedian, producer and musician Fred Armisen. The 30-second spot features Latino actors Enrique Duenas, Betzaida Landin and Arturo Castro.

Of course, like the other carriers, AT&T did a lot to prepare for heavy traffic inside and around Allegiant Stadium. In AT&T’s case, it deployed C-band and millimeter wave spectrum and Band 14 for FirstNet. However, AT&T doesn’t have an ad queued up for the Super Bowl, a spokesperson confirmed.

Broadly speaking, “AT&T has been pretty quiet,” said analyst Jeff Moore of Wave7 Research.

However, aside from the Super Bowl, it has been running an ad pitching an “on us” offer for the Samsung Galaxy S24 where the actress “Lily” says AT&T doesn’t require signing up for its top-tier plan to get the best deal. “I haven’t seen anybody make anything out of that, but it’s true,” Moore said, adding that it looks as though Lily “has thrown an elbow” at AT&T’s rivals.

Last month during CES, Moore noticed Verizon’s ads throughout Las Vegas, including at the baggage claim area of the airport. His post on social media sparked some debate around the effectiveness of spending a lot of money on marketing if it doesn’t affect consumers’ perception of the network. 

Seize the day

Verizon executives earlier this week said they were thrilled with the customer response they’ve seen for myPlan, which offers perks like Netflix and Max for $10/month. Verizon just so happens to be featuring content from the likes of Netflix and Max during the pre-game events this week.  

Suffice it to say, Verizon is pulling out all the stops for Super Bowl LVIII.  

At the Sphere, Verizon was the first on the distributed antenna system (DAS) for the venue’s grand opening. Since then, Verizon teamed up with the Sphere for an activation on the Exosphere – said to be the largest LED screen in the world – to “transform the Las Vegas skyline and showcase the network NFL fans rely on in a way that only Sphere and Verizon can,” according to Kristin McHugh, chief brand officer at Verizon.

“Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas is one of the most anticipated Super Bowls in recent memory,” McHugh told Fierce via email. “As the official 5G network of the NFL, it’s an opportunity for us to tap into our longstanding partnership with the NFL and connect with our customers in a way that only Verizon can. The Super Bowl is a cultural moment – it’s about sports, entertainment, music and it’s about bringing people together. Verizon sits at the intersection of those things.”

It's almost enough to make you forget there's a football game in the middle of all this.