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FreedomPop Hires NBA Legend Julius Erving As Spokesperson, Featured In TV Ads

FreedomPop Has Hired Julius 'Dr. J.' Erving as Company Spokesperson
FreedomPop Has Hired Julius 'Dr. J.' Erving as Company Spokesperson
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FreedomPop has hired NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving, better known as "Dr. J," to be their new company spokesperson, as noted in Wave7 Research's latest prepaid report filing. This move marks a significant shift in the marketing strategy for FreedomPop. Erving just recently celebrated his 74th birthday.

Targeting A New Demographic

FreedomPop is now focusing its marketing efforts on the senior demographic. Their website directly compares their plans to those of Consumer Cellular and Lively, two other MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that target seniors. FreedomPop highlights their lower priced plans, with their 1GB plan costing $10/month compared to $20 for Consumer Cellular and $25 for Lively. They also offer a $30/month plan with 10GB of data. FreedomPop's coverage map suggests they operate as an AT&T MVNO.

Shifting Gears With TV Ads and YouTube Videos

FreedomPop's marketing strategy now includes a television ad campaign and a series of videos on their YouTube channel featuring Dr. J. The company is airing three TV ads, with two being shorter versions of the same content. Their YouTube channel offers a more extensive look at their ad campaign and a glimpse into what may be future TV ads. It includes four additional videos alongside the ones airing on TV. Some of these videos are shortened versions of the same content. The new TV and video ads all highlight the same theme. They state that FreedomPop is America's #1 cell service for seniors.

All the videos promote either a $10/month service plan with unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data or the potential to save more than half on your current phone bill. Some videos highlight both of these benefits. The TV ads have only aired a limited number of times so far.

FreedomPop's TV Ads

One of the new TV ads from FreedomPop is called "Seniors: Painful Cell Phone Bills." It can also be found on their YouTube channel.

This ad features Erving in a doctor's office setting surrounded by FreedomPop branding. A patient asks him, "Dr. J? Are you a real doctor?" He responds "sort of" and exclaims that he saves seniors from "painful overpriced cell phone bills." He then promotes both the $10/month plan and that it saves seniors more than half off of their phone bills. The ad is embedded below.

Another TV ad, "Save 50% or More", features Erving working in FreedomPop's office. The ad kicks off with Erving answering a phone call and greeting the caller with, "Thank you for calling FreedomPop, the number 1 cell service for seniors. This is Dr. J." The caller is surprised to hear Dr. J on the line and asks if he can help lower her bill. He tells her she can save 50% or more of what her bill used to be by switching. The $10 plan is then highlighted and viewers are told switching is as easy as 1-2-3. Check it out below.

FreedomPop Pivots To Senior Demographic By Necessity

Julius Erving aka 'Dr. J' Pictured In FreedomPop Shirt
Julius Erving aka 'Dr. J' Pictured In FreedomPop Shirt

FreedomPop's decision to hire NBA Hall of Famer Julius "Dr. J" Erving as their spokesperson caught many by surprise, including Jeff Moore, Principal of Wave7 Research. Moore who has been covering the wireless industry since 2015 shared his feelings of surprise via this post on X.

The reason for this shift to target a different audience was by necessity. FreedomPop, as seen in this January 2024 Wayback Machine capture, previously focused on marketing to people who qualified for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a government program that provided subsidies for internet and mobile phone service. However, funding for the ACP program is ending in April 2024, and providers stopped adding new subscribers to the program in February.

Red Pocket Mobile purchased the FreedomPop brand in 2019. BestMVNO reported that the deal was valued in the "high eight figures." To date, it's hard to imagine Red Pocket having recouped the cost of their purchase.

So between funding for the ACP program ending, and Red Pocket still likely needing to recoup its acquisition cost of FreedomPop pivoting to a new demographic was required. The addition of a celebrity pitchman may help rapidly add subscribers.

The Senior Market: A Lucrative Opportunity

The senior demographic is a largely untapped market in the wireless industry, with only a handful of independent providers and one major carrier (T-Mobile) catering to this audience. As FreedomPop points out, Consumer Cellular and Lively are the two largest independent providers exclusively targeting that audience.

In August 2018, BestMVNO reported that Best Buy acquired GreatCall and its 810k subs for $800 million. Three years later, GreatCall was rebranded to Lively. In October 2020, BestMVNO noted that an investment firm from Chicago, GTCR paid $2-$2.3 billion for a majority stake in Consumer Cellular. Consumer Cellular had four million subscribers back then. Those numbers worked out to acquisition costs per subscriber of $879 and $575 respectively. Eye-popping valuations that suggest the senior market is a profitable one to enter.

FreedomPop's use of a celebrity spokesperson to market to seniors is a page out of Consumer Cellular's playbook. Consumer Cellular has had Ted Danson as their celebrity spokesperson for the last couple of years. They've also aired several TV ads starring Danson. Given the success and growth of Consumer Cellular over the years, it's not a bad playbook to try and emulate.

“FreedomPop has repositioned itself as a carrier serving older Americans, focusing on affordable plans that provide little to no data. Dr. J is a good spokesman for this effort, as he is remembered for his NBA success by older Americans.” – Jeff Moore, Principal of Wave7 Research

FreedomPop is sold in Target stores and is available for online purchase through Target and Walmart.

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