It's a quarterback sneak.
In a surprise move, T-Mobile will announce Friday that former New York Jets Quarterback Tim Tebow will star in two of its Super Bowl XLVIII ads.
And there's an unexpected twist in T-Mobile's ad play: Tebow was in a 2010 Big Game commercial, but this T-Mobile spot is a sharp contrast with ad for conservative Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family that featured Tebow and his mom.
In these two 30-second commercials, he takes a comic turn with wild, zany roles, all poking fun at the fact that he doesn't have a National Football League contract -- and at cell-phone providers that require contracts. Without an allegiance to one team, or even one profession, he is able to take on gigs such as an obstetrician, a bull rider and a rock star.
These ads allow him to be "self-deprecating," he says, as well as to "do something that is outside of your comfort zone."
In playing these over-the-top characters, Tebow says he's able to show the public a humorous side "that family and friends know better."
In addition to the Tebow ads, T-Mobile will run a 30-second commercial that has no actors. That ad is all text and encourages consumers to break ties with their current carrier and to join T-Mobile, which doesn't require contracts.
The Big Game big media buy is part of the T-Mobile's strategy to boost brand awareness, as well as promote the fact that now will pay the termination charges from existing contracts with rival carrier for consumers who want to switch to T-Mobile.
Tim Tebow take on over-the-top roles in two T-Mobile Super Bowl commercials(Photo: Photo from ad shot by Stacy Wall, Imperial Woodpecker Prod.)
The Tebow ads are lighthearted. But some of T-Mobile's other advertising has been much more antagonistic toward competitors. The company, which is the nation's fourth-largest carrier, frequently takes on AT&T directly. It will do that again on Sunday in a pre-game ad that will say "move over AT&T."
"The Super Bowl is not for every brand, but it's consistent with what we are trying to do," says T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert. "We're a brand that is bold and brash."
Yet, that aggressive approach has raised concerns with the National Advertising Division, which is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The NAD says that some of the analysis that T-Mobile used to make claims of better service than AT&T were "flawed" and that T-Mobile should modify, and even discontinue, some of its advertising approaches.
Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile senior vice president of brand communications, defends its strategy.
"I'm the head of advertising here," he says. "I don't think any of my advertising is deceptive."
As for the upcoming Super Bowl ads, DeLuca says the thinking was "go big or go home."
Regarding for the day's gridiron action, Tebow was noncommittal when asked if he'll root for the Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks.
He says he has "good friends on both teams -- obviously a few more on Denver," where he played in 2010 and 2011, but his overriding hope is for all to "play well."
For his own football future, Tebow says this: "I'm still working hard every single day to improve as a quarterback and I'm looking forward to whatever opportunities are there."
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