Sunday, September 10, 2006

Caught in a web of viral marketing, TWFE sells out

There was an intriguing email sitting in my inbox Thursday. I received a message from something called the "Sprint Ambassador Team," and the subject was "Sprint NFL Ambassador Invite."

I initially thought it was spam (Wouldn't any of you?), but once I did a quick Google search on "Sprint Ambassador," I quickly realized that the invite was legit. Sprint was offering me the opportunity to use and review their service, with access to all of their content, unlimited minutes, their EV-DO Power Vision network, everything absolutely free for 6 months, all in return for just my feedback. The phone is mine to keep after the 6 months are up.

It was hard to believe, almost too good to be true. A large corporation was targeting, not just A-list bloggers, but a small time blogger like myself? Me? Who gets as many hits in a week that the big time bloggers get in a few hours? Strange, but it's true...

The Sprint Ambassador Team recently visited and wants to invite you to participate in Phase II of our Ambassador Program.

The Sprint Ambassador Program is all about exploring our latest products and services and allows you to give direct feedback to Sprint. We recently launched Sprint NFL Mobile content and want to provide you with the full experience, at no charge. Sprint NFL Mobile enables you to track your players, earn bragging rights, and become a fantasy football fiend.

So what’s the deal?

As a qualified participant, we will send you one Sprint Power Vision (mobile broadband) phone and provide you with 6 months of all-access service (at no charge). In addition to NFL Mobile, you’ll have access to the Sprint Music Store, live TV broadcasts, gaming, and more. Yes, you will also have unlimited free calling and data service. It’s a pretty good deal and all we ask for in return is your candid feedback (you decide how much and how often).

A pretty good deal? That's putting it mildly. But I wasn't totally convinced, so I read their FAQ and the terms of service.

When I read the fine print at the site where Sprint asked me to register, it was clear, even through the legalese, that there are literally no strings attached. No contracts, no background checks, no deposit, nothing at all. Just to be sure, I contacted Sprint. I specifically asked them if I was required, or was being encouraged to, blog about my experiences. Sprint let me know that I'm not required to blog about the phone, they just ask that I give them feedback as to their NFL content.

There was one caveat. I was also told that nothing was guaranteed, and that they were just considering me for their ambassador program. Just considering me? Well...Damn. That news tempered my enthuiasm just a tad. After our email exchange, I figured that if something were to ever come of this, it would months down the line at best.

But on Saturday, I received another message from Sprint, with the subject title of "Welcome to the Sprint Ambassador Program!" What the Hell? The message got straight to the point...

Thanks again for your interest in the Sprint Ambassador Program!

This message confirms that you have successfully been chosen to participate.

You will be receiving your Power Vision phone package within the next couple of weeks.

Hot damn! Turns out they'll be sending me their Fusic LG 550 phone. From what I've read about the Fusic, and all the services I'll have access to, the Fusic will be one kick ass fun gadget to play with, as the features confirm.

  • MP3 Player + FM Transmitter with External Controls
  • Phone-as-Modem connectivity
  • Sprint TV + Sprint Music Store enabled
  • Bluetooth Capable
  • 1.3 Mp Camera/Camcorder with Flash
For someone whose current cell phone is years out of date, worn out, and doesn't do anything other than make and receive calls, (and pretty badly at that) this is like manna from gadget heaven.

Obviously Sprint knows bloggers, and they realize that we are going to write about our experiences. So I'm absolutely aware that I'm being used as part of a viral adverising campaign. You know what? I have no issues with that at all. Why? First off, I'm not a member of the media. I don't review technology, so it's not payola. Not in my mind, anyway. And second, because Sprint has told me, and from reading other blogs that have been invited to join the ambassador program, that I can say ANYTHING I want about my use of their product. They have no editorial control over what I write. Trust me, if I have issues with Sprint, if the phone and/or services don't work as advertised, you all are going to hear about it. On the other hand, if I enjoy the hell out of the phone, and it works as it's supposed to, I'll say that as well.

This is a pretty gutsy program for Sprint to embark upon, using both well known, and unkown, bloggers to use and review their products. I'm guessing that Sprint targets specific markets, then looks for bloggers that post regualrly, and at least have a small regular readership. TWFE and myself must fit whatever critera they use. Not that I'm complaining... But when you really think about it, for a company that spends untold millions on advertising, how expensive is it for Sprint to give bloggers free phones, and let them write about it? Not as much as sponsoring NASCAR and the NFL, to say the very least.

Hell, I'm just happy that I'm going to have a new phone...

Once the phone arrives, I'll be sure to post regularly about my adventures in viral marketing. Hey, anything to take my mind off of the Tigers and Lions, right?


  1. I am also a Sprint Ambassador Program member although my 6-month trial ends this month.

    You'll enjoy the ability to try out their premier services at no cost. It was a great six months and I hope I get invited back.

  2. Yeah when's the Spring Ambassador MLB program start? ;)

    Oh, you actualy need cell service to get it? This Yooper is out of the running.


  3. I'm a sell-out, too. Big Al, we should celebrate one day, talking to each other from across town with our Bluetooth capable new hotness.

  4. Ian! You too? I was wondering how many others were contacted locally.

  5. Not sure how many others were contacted, Big Al. I was spending too much time thinking I was a REALLY BIG DEAL. :)