A year ago, a small wireless startup from Costa Mesa, California, seeking to grow its business, spent $5 million to introduce itself to the world on the 2019 Super Bowl game with a 30-second ad.
The pitch: a super low-cost alternative to the hundred dollar plus wireless packages from Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. Instead, full service starting at $15 monthly. The catch: Less data is available, but it’s cheap.
So cut to a year later, and MintMobile isn’t returning to the Super Bowl, which kicks off Sunday with a host of broadcast and streaming options to watch. And the firm has a new “owner” in actor Ryan Reynolds, best known for movies like “Deadpool” and “The Proposal.”
Reynolds this year is pitching a new deal – three months of free service, but only if you sign up during a certain time period. Like during the game itself.
The actor, in a full-page ad that ran in the New York Times this week, explained why he’s ditching spending another $5 million to be on the Bowl.
Instead of spending $5 million, “we could literally give away over 300,000 months of free service and still save money. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Hype about the largest audiences in TV land (the Super Bowl averaged nearly 100 million viewers in 2019) brings out companies appealing to that most basic consumer desire – to save money. This week, another wireless firm, TextNow, announced plans for a totally free phone service, with a catch. Unlimited calls and texts, with ads, but no web surfing unless you’re willing to pay a minimum of $9.99 monthly.
Which is less than Mint’s starter price of $15.
David Glickman, the founder and CEO of Mint, says the $5 million spent for last year’s ad was worth it. “It paid for itself economically. It brought us so many new customers and the halo of being a Super Bowl advertiser carried through to new partnerships.”
Like an alliance with Reynolds, who Glickman says is a “majority owner,” sharing shares with Glickman himself. (He declined to reveal how much Reynolds paid for his stake.)
Reynolds tells USA TODAY that he hooked up with Mint through founder David Glickman, whom he knew from their work together at the Michael J. Fox foundation charity. Glickman, the actor recalls, “was relentless in asking me to try Mint Mobile and like most people, I thought, “How can cell service so inexpensive be any good?”
He relented, gave it a shot, liked it, and then “it kind of got in my head of how unusual it would be for a celebrity to buy a telecom company and how much I liked the mission of making cell service more affordable on a mass scale and to use celebrity to elevate something so pragmatic.”
Reynolds, who replied to questions from USA TODAY via e-mail from the set of his new Netflix film, “Red Notice,” currently in production, says he’s very involved in the firm, “especially in business strategy and marketing.”
Beyond acting, Reynolds also has a production company, Maximum Effort and owns a gin company, Aviation Gin, as well.
“We create movies, TV shows, marketing content and have bet big on gin cocktails and now cell service,” he says. “These things seem pretty disparate, but when done very well, they are all highly collective experiences that can bring people together in a world that seems to generate more and more ways to drive us apart.”
Glickman says Reynolds gives the brand visibility to an audience “we couldn’t reach before.” (The actor has a combined 50 million-plus followers on Twitter and Instagram, compared to just over 40,000 for Mint Mobile.) The Mint motto is that with an unlimited data plan, we pay for service we don’t use or need. Even for an actor like Reynolds, who Glickman says is surrounded by Wi-Fi.
“It’s at home, school, restaurants. There’s just not a huge need to have wireless data everywhere,” he says.
Mint’s rates are $45 for the first 3 months of service, and if you’re ready to commit to a full year afterward, you can lock in the $15 rate, or pay $20 monthly for a six-month commitment.
Or, of course, if you respond to the promo on Sunday, during the game, the first three months are free.
In other tech news this week
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, already the world’s richest man, just got even richer. After announcing earnings, Amazon CEO Bezos saw his shares improve by $13 billion. Additionally, Amazon announced a new milestone. The company now has 150 million members of the Amazon Prime program.
Ginni Rometty, the first female CEO of IBM, said she’s stepping down. The move is effective in April.
In the end, Roku and Fox made nice, and viewers will be able to see the Super Bowl in Ultra High Definition 4K on the Roku streaming player after all. Thursday, Roku pulled Fox smart TV apps from its channel store over licensing issues. By Friday night, they had returned.
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