When the Falcons faced off against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI last year, Verizon customers at Houston’s NRG Stadium—where Verizon had installed some 900 antennas—burned their way through 11 terabytes of data. (That’s roughly the equivalent of one guy watching HD video nonstop for 255 days, or everything on the shelves of the Library of Congress, plus an extra terabyte.) For the game this year, Verizon, which has packed U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis with 1,200 antennas, is bracing for an even bigger load—much bigger.
And Verizon wants you to know it’s ready.
A series of video shorts launching today on social media will give viewers a rare peek into the wireless infrastructure Verizon recently finished upgrading at the stadium. And while the six videos are technically just the latest installment of Verizon’s month-old “Best for a Good Reason” campaign, which touts Verizon’s network capabilities by letting its infrastructure do the talking, the new shorts are a Super Bowl play that easily stands on its own.
“Everybody knows we’re the best network,” said Verizon CMO Diego Scotti, “but we wanted to show the work that goes behind [it.]”
Thus far in the campaign, videos have taken viewers into the company’s New Jersey test lab and into a cave near Kansas City where its emergency-response equipment is stored. Now, Scotti said, “we’re taking the moment of the Super Bowl to keep telling these stories.”
At 30 seconds each, the six videos are quick but colorful glimpses into parts of U.S. Bank Stadium that only Verizon technicians get to see. There’s a peek at the hiding spots for the antennae (many nestled below the seats, tucked into the handrails and perched high on catwalks). There’s a trip to the Nerve Center, stuffed with aisles of routers and some of the 550 miles of fiber for the 4G LTE. And there’s a sweep through the Network Control Room, a cavern below the stands where technicians will monitor all of the voice and data usage, especially during the halftime show, when just about everyone in the crowd of 73,000 will inevitably have a smartphone out.
The creative shop behind the videos, The Community, spent hours listening to Verizon technicians explaining the complexities of their jobs.
“In our lengthy interactions with the engineers, we began to understand what they do every day and, as communicators, we [found] the key pieces which will resonate with the public,” said Joaquin Molla, The Community’s founder and CCO. “Our role began to be to identify, curate and simplify all those stories and transform them into real ‘reasons’ … and through the thousands of ‘one-at-a-times,’ a very big picture emerges.”
And it is a big picture—this is a very big stadium—but Verizon’s engineers weren’t embellishing the complexity of what they do. Indeed, though these social videos might be new, the infrastructure featured in them has been in the making for years.
The NFL announced that Minnesota would host Super Bowl LII in May 2014. At the time, the city’s new stadium (price tag: $1.13 billion) was still under construction. Not long after that, Verizon signed on as a founding partner. (While Scotti would not disclose the amount his company paid, one published figure for a founding partnership put it between $250,000 and $1.5 million.)
U.S. Bank Stadium opened in July 2016, but by late last year, Verizon was already seeing higher wireless usage loads during regular Vikings home games than it had even during Super Bowl LI. Anticipating the onslaught to come—“insatiable,” said a company official at the time—Verizon began to beef up its matrix of antennas, finally increasing it by 48 percent.
Basically, then, with the stadium’s wireless infrastructure newly muscled up, Verizon had a ready-made marketing idea already sitting there, a bit of fortuitous timing that both its agency and its CMO appreciate. “The truth was there, and our job was to find a way, a platform, to help that truth to come to the surface,” Molla said.
“What I love about the campaign is that it’s not that hard, because these stories are real—they’re [already] written,” Scotti added.
Well, almost written. Each video features a few lines of explanation for what viewers are actually looking at, and many of the shorts feature voiceovers from real Verizon engineers. What they may lack in dramatic narration skills is exceeded by the authenticity of their voices.
“For me, what’s interesting in this approach is that these are all 100 percent true stories—these are the real engineers,” said Scotti, who hopes these shorts will also breathe a little fresh air into the approach that telecom advertising usually takes: a tedious recounting of pricing plans and coverage area, along with potshots at other carriers.
“Our competitors just claim this or that or challenge us with silly claims,” he said. “[This campaign] is a simple and humble [way to] show the real dedication that our engineers have.”