Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sprint's Potentially Racist Advertisment Strikes a Chord

Sprint’s Potentially Racist Advertisement Strikes a Chord


Sprint company logo
            Sprint is an American telecommunications company that was founded in 1899 as Brown Telephone Company. In the century since then, Sprint has grown into a large mobile phone operator and internet service provider. Today, it is one of the largest mobile service providers in the United States with over 50 million customers. Sprint’s major competitors are other major telecommunications companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The rivalry between telecommunication giants is often evident by the advertisements that are shown on television, radio, and the internet.
            In 2016, an advertisement released by Sprint seemed to go too far in the minds of many consumers. The advertisement featured Sprint Chief Executive Marcelo Claure asking consumers for their opinions on Sprint and its competitors. Claure asked a few customers what came to mind when he mentioned ‘T-Mobile’, one of Sprint’s major competitors. One customer responded by saying ‘the first word that came to my mind was ghetto!’ Claure posted the advertisement on his Twitter page, tagging T-Mobile in his Tweet with the comments ‘sometimes the truth hurts’.
Sprint Chief Executive Marcelo Claure
            Almost immediately, Claure and Sprint began to see backlash from the advertisement on Twitter and other social media. Many people took issue with the consumer who used the word ‘ghetto’ to refer to T-Mobile. The advertisement was called classless, insensitive, and racist by many. Due to the harsh backlash, not only 6 hours later, Claure removed the advertisement from his Twitter page. Claure apologized for what he called bad judgement, but defended that the advertisement was not racist. He responded to one Twitter user who claimed the video was disrespectful to Latinos by saying “I am just as Latino as you are so don’t try to pull that card.”

            There are quite a few stakeholders in regards to the Sprint advertisement controversy. Most notably, chief executive Claure and other high-ranking Sprint employees are stakeholders, as they would likely receive the most fallback from the advertisement. Such negative publicity could result in employees resigning or being fired, or otherwise punished by other corporate leadership. Additionally, Sprint’s competitors pose to gain from the advertisement as well as the mishandling of the situation by Sprint and Claure, making them stakeholders as well. If people who felt that the advertisement was negative enough to search for alternative means of communication, these rival companies could see an increase in sales. Lastly, these consumers who were upset or offended by the advertisement’s use of the word ‘ghetto’ potentially referring to specific groups of people would make them stakeholders in this case as well.

            Individualist Theory states that the only moral responsibility of a business is to increase profits for the company and its shareholders, as long as the business stays within the limits of the law. Someone looking at the Sprint case using individualist principles may say that the company did not break any laws, therefore the company is not in the wrong. However, by releasing an advertisement that may be seen as racist by a large percentage of the population, Sprint may have potentially done something to decrease its profits. While advertisements are typically made to attract people to its business, this particular advertisement may have pushed people away from Sprint and towards one of its competitors.

            Utilitarian principles focus on creating the most benefit for the largest share of the population possible. Looking at the Sprint case through a utilitarian lens, it is clear to see that Sprint did not act in the best interests of its company or its customers. By releasing an advertisement that may be construed as racist or offensive, Sprint is portraying itself in a way that is not beneficial to increase profits or customer satisfaction. It is acceptable to use advertisements to try to put yourself or your company in a more positive light, but not by including offensive language or images.

One user's response to Sprint's 'racist' advertisement
            Kantianism focuses on rational decision making and the freedom for all people involved. When using a Kantian point of view is where the absurdity of this case really comes into light. It is clear that Sprint and chief executive Claure did not act according to rational thought. If Sprint had shown the advertisement to several audiences or some sort of focus group, it would have been obvious that the advertisement was not acceptable. This should have been a commonplace solution to Sprints problems, but due to Sprint and Claure’s negligence, the company is left to face the aftermath of rightfully angry consumers who may not want to do business with a company that produces and releases insensitive advertisements.

Virtue Theory:
            When examining a case using virtue theory, one must use the four main virtues: courage, honesty, justice, and temperance. In the case of Sprint, if it is not already clear, the production and release of a commercial that has been received by many as insensitive or racist is not conducive to a better lifestyle. Claure showed slight courage when he removed the advertisement and apologized after receiving backlash, but did not completely exemplify the virtue by denying the advertisements racist overtones. The remaining three virtues were not shown by Sprint or Claure during this case, as the advertisement offended many people, and Sprint’s lackluster response did not repair the damage done. The company not making a public statement and not publicly reprimanding Claure was not the right move to help the company and its stakeholders move on from this instance.

Words Cited:
Andrews, Travis M. “Sprint pulls ad featuring white woman calling T-Mobile ‘ghetto’. Do we see a trend yet?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Apr. 2016.

Brueck, Hilary. “Sprint Pulls Ad Calling T-Mobile The 'Ghetto' Carrier.” Fortune, 13 Apr. 2016,

Vranica, Suzanne. “Best and Worst Ads of 2016: The Things We Can't Unsee.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 28 Dec. 2016.


  1. Your post was very informative and interesting! I think it was helpful to the post to discuss Sprint's background and it's competitors initially in the case description as you did. Sprint definitely could have easily avoided this entire advertising mishap if they had tried out the ad on a focus group or even just to any sort of third party to make sure the ad wasn't offensive to anyone. But instead, the company assumed everyone would accept the term "ghetto" and not question it. Sprint certainly gained some negative attention which is never good for a company's profits. Overall your blog post looks great, good job!

  2. This scandal could have easily been avoided if Claure had just used common sense! It amazes me how many people and representatives if companies create issues just because of lack of common sense. I enjoyed reading your blog, it had some good information and I feel it was explained well using the theories discussed in class. Great job!