Save the Cheerleader, Save the Brand: Is Sprint Subliminally “Celling” on NBC’s “Heroes?”

I’ve never been sure if I was more of a geek or a nerd. Thankfully, Wired GeekDad blog writer Matt Blum answered my question in a December 24, 2008 Associated Press story proclaiming Barack Obama as the “Geek-in-Chief.”  Blum delineates the difference as follows:

“A geek is someone who has the knowledge of the geeky type stuff and has social graces. A nerd is someone who has the knowledge but not the social graces and a dork is someone who has neither.”

That being the case, I suppose I am more of a geek. I embrace my geekness, though I can honestly say that I have never been a comic book geek in the true sense of the word. While I have read a few graphic novels, I’ve never collected issues and kept them hermetically sealed in a temperature controlled room.

Nevertheless, I’ve had a lifelong admiration for the character of Superman (as the shield in the header of this blog attests). I have also been watching the NBC show Heroes since it begain airing in the fall of 2006 (speaking of Superman, it helped me to recover from “Superman Returns,” which I felt was very untrue to the idea of the character).

I am also a bit of a marketing geek, so I tend to notice things most other won’t — especially when my two areas of interest collide, as they have recently in Heroes. Over the past few seasons of the show, there has been some clumsily obvious product placements. While not entirely distracting from the show, they are hard to miss.

The two main brands that have maintained a strong presence in the show are Nissan and Sprint. It will be interesting to see how the upheaval in the economy and automobile industry might affect this ongoing relationship. Sprint has become heavily involved as of late, even sponsoring an online contest that invited viewers to chose a new hero for an online webisode.

I am also a customer of Sprint and have been since January 2000. In May 2008 I upgraded to the Palm Centro and have been using it ever since (I still am likely only using 25% of the phone’s capabilities).

One of the features I occasionally use is the Internet access — though I would use it more if it were not for inconsistent connection speeds and an underwhelming interface (it does not display the “real” Internet as is the case with the iPhone).

In any case, something caught my eye one day when I was browsing the “fake” Internet on my Palm Centro: the connection/activity icon on the phone is almost identical to the thematic image from Season 3 of Heroes!

This image is one that depicts the earth spliting apart along a diagonal line (bottom left to top right). The connection/activity icon on the Palm Centro depicts an earth with some kind of flame or ball of energy transversing it in a diagonal line (bottom left to top right).

This can’t possibly be a coincidence, can it? I’ve provided an image below containing pictures of both — Have a look and leave a comment with your thoughts about this possible case of product placement:

Unique Sprint Product Placement in NBC's Heroes?
Unique Sprint Product Placement in NBC’s Heroes?

I would love to get some other opinions on this. Certainly this is not the Rosetta stone or anything, but it does intrigue me. By the way, for a more complete list of product placement in Heroes episodes and other information about the show, check out the Heroes Wiki.

Update:

Shortly after writing this blog post, I attempted to answer my above question by reaching out to three Heroes actors who I know use Twitter:

  • Greg Grunberg (@greggrunberg), who plays “Matt Parkman.”
  • Brea Grant (@breagrant) who plays “Daphne Millbrook” (Matt Parkman’s love interest.)
  • David H. Lawrence (@dhlawrencexvii) who plays puppetmaster “Eric Doyle.”

On January 2, 2009 at 12:42 AM I posted the following question on Twitter: @greggrunberg @dhlawrencexvii @breagrant, is Sprint subliminally “celling” on “Heroes?” www.tr.im/sprint.

A short time later, at 1:29 AM, I noticed David Lawrence had just posted a tweet. So I resent the same question directly to him: @dhlawrencexvii Is Sprint subliminally “celling” on “Heroes?” Read this if you get a chance: www.tr.im/sprint. @Joseph_Yi and I are curious.

A few minutes later, on January 2, 2009 at 1:42 AM, David Lawrence replied as follows: @doctorious  Sprint (and Nissan) are Heroes’ 3 biggest advertisers. Nothing subliminal about it. All of us use Sprint cell phones on the show.

Later that same day, January 2, 2009 at 12:13 PM, Brea Grant sent a reply as well: @doctorious  nothing subliminal about sponsorship on the show but i think the whole world splitting thing is just a coincidence. 

I never heard back from Greg Grunberg, but I appreciate the two responses I did receive as they were interesting and enlightening. I wonder how someone who works in production for the show might answer for my question?

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