Why T-Mobile And Shakira Might Be Prepping a Jay Z/Samsung Deal

When T-Mobile was prepping the news of its unlimited international data plan, announced Oct. 9 in New York’s Bryant Park, the fourth-largest phone carrier was looking for a global celebrity who could communicate such a compelling new offering.

An initial conversation with Roc Nation co-founder/president Jay Brown less than two months ago quickly yielded a multi-year deal with Shakira. The Colombian superstar performed a set of her hits to a crowd of 8,000 fans and T-Mobile customers, promising to “shake things up” as part of her new partnership with the phone company.

So, might Shakira and T-Mobile pull a Jay Z and Samsung? Peter Deluca, T-Mobile's senior VP of brand and marketing, tells Billboard, “She has a new single and a new album coming out, and we’ll be partnering with her to bring that music to our customers in new and different ways.” Shakira added in a statement, “Today is all about bringing the world closer together,” Shakira said. “I'm excited to partner with T-Mobile and look forward to being able to share my music in new and innovative ways.”

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While details are still being ironed out, Deluca says T-Mobile has plans to feature Shakira in upcoming advertising campaigns for both general and Hispanic markets. But she won’t be a typical “spokesperson” in the vein of, say, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, who was a prominent T-Mobile presence in the early to mid-aughts.

“We want to leverage her and her personae into a campaign that makes sense for us and for her,” Deluca says. “We also want to be involved with her [Barefoot] Foundation and philanthropy goals and how she sees the world -- we have a lot of interest in helping get that message out also. It’s a very collaborative process, and we’re super excited to be working with her and her team. She really is involved with everything -- which is rare, I can honestly say.”

As part of the Shakira partnership, T-Mobile announced it will be expanding its unlimited data coverage to more than 100 countries for its Simple Choice customers, beginning Oct. 31, with a global flat rate of 20 cents per minute for roaming voice calls. Look for a significant marketing push, too, from T-Mobile -- the phone carrier was ranked one of the fastest-growing U.S. ad spenders by Ad Age for 2012, with a measured ad budget of $1.1 billion, up 27% versus 2011, according to the Ad Age Data Center.

Shakira isn’t the only Latin pop star with a multi-year mobile phone deal. In May, Jennifer Lopez became a partner in Viva Movil, a venture with Verizon Wireless aimed at Hispanic consumers with retail stores in New York and Los Angeles as well as online hub.

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