As an answering service, we’re obviously way into phones and the technology behind how they work. Since Super Bowl LII (go birds!) is coming up, we tried to see how we could incorporate phones with football. We thought about the technology that allows the quarterback to talk to the coach via his helmet, although that didn’t lead us very far. We also looked into how the President calls the winning team to congratulate them, and that was also a dead end. But then we stumbled upon something so magical it’s hard to believe it was even real – that is, the creation of the football phone. And like peanut butter meeting jelly for the first time, greatness was conceived.
Where Did it Come From?
In the late 80’s, magazine sales were tanking, which put the pressure on marketing agencies to come up with ideas on how to move more subscriptions. To spark sales, Sport’s Illustrated offered VHS tapes of sports bloopers as an incentive for new subscribers. This idea was marginally successful, but it was getting tough to fill up a tape with new material. There’s only so many times you could watch Jeff Francoeur misfire on the throw to first. So, the SI marketing team went back to the drawing board.
Sport’s Illustrated VHS Blooper Ad
And now for a John Slattery break.
Frog Phone = Football Phone
In 1986, the marketing director for Sport’s Illustrated, Martin Shampaine, came across a phone that resembled a frog, which then led him to the idea (obviously) of creating a phone that looked like a football. Because you know how many times you’ve tried to dial a frog.
Shampaine, the Einstein of his time, spent months working out the logistics of how the product could look like a football, and still have the functionality of a telephone. By the early 90’s, SI had successfully gene spliced a football with a phone and they were ready to show the masses.
Sport’s Illustrated Football Phone Ad
What started as a simple gimmick to try and get people to subscribe to a magazine, the Sport’s Illustrated Football Phone scored major points among fans and helped contribute to 1.6 million new subscriptions between 1986 and 1991. The company had so much success with the football phone, that they played around with other variations as well.
They eventually created the sneaker phone but by the mid 90’s, Sport’s Illustrated resorted back to offering VHS compilations as their premium freebie. Like anyone could ever throw a perfect spiral with a shoe.
Sport’s Illustrated Sneaker Phone Commercial
But will it help my time in the quarter mile? Yes.
Fast forward to present day, where technology has evolved from football phones to face and fingerprint recognition to unlock your cell phone. Technology is always progressing, but that doesn’t mean we’ll ever forget about the OG of sports equipment shaped telephones.
Spoof Football Phone Ad from Howler Magazine
Great line to watch out for: ‘Where’s the camera on this thing’
Sport’s Illustrated Football Phone Ad Transcript
But wait, there’s more! We’ve transcribed the SI football phone advertisement for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
Girl #1: Buying Christmas presents for my boyfriend is one of the most impossible things ever.
Girl #2: Everything I give him, he always wants to return it.
Grandma: Stores are busy, the cashiers are impatient.
Girl #3: Christmas shopping is just about the only thing that wrecks the holiday season.
Narrator: Catch this, it’s Sport’s Illustrated’s most exciting Christmas gift ever – the football phone! Free with a paid subscription to SI.
Couple #1 (after being thrown the football phone): It’s a phone!
Grandma (after being thrown the football phone): My goodness, it’s a telephone inside of a football!
Girl #1 (after being thrown the football phone): Awesome! It’s a phone!
Guy #1 (after being thrown the football phone): Oh, cool! I would love something like this. Mom, if you’re watching, I would love something like this for Christmas
Couple #1 (after being thrown the football phone): He’s looking for the pass, it’s a phone call!
Narrator: it looks like a football, but works like a regular phone. The football phone plugs into a standard jack and has push button dialing, on/off ringer, mute button and automatic redial.
Guy #2: Hello, Colleen? This is fantastic, I’m at the stadium right now and I have a football phone!
Couple #2: Cute! This has got to be out of her price range, though, something like this.
Narrator: And the football phone is free!
Girl #1: No way… It’s free?
Girl #2: Free?
Girl from couple #2: That’s even better! And I don’t even have to go shopping for it, I hope!
Grandma: What do I have to do to get this?
Narrator: Here’s the unbelievable catch. The football phone is free if you get Sport’s Illustrated at their biggest Christmas savings ever. A year’s subscription at almost 65% off the cover price. You can be billed after the new year, or you can use your credit card today. So, call now!
Girl #2: I’d say you’re crazy. Nobody cuts prices before Christmas!
Girl #1: I’ll buy it for my father, my brother and my boyfriend!
Narrator: You only pay 99 cents an issue and the subscription includes the NFL, NBA and baseball previews, the yearend double issue and the 1991 swimsuit issue.
Guy #1: I would love to have Sport’s Illustrated for Christmas, I never get anything I want.
Girl #3: Sport’s Illustrated, I should have thought of that a long time ago!
Grandma: All I have to do is buy this for all the men in my life and I wouldn’t have any problems at all!
Girl #1: My Christmas worries are over!
Guy #2: I hope she orders that for Christmas for me!
Guy #1: I would love to have this for Christmas. So, mom if you’re watching, please, for once (gestures to football phone).
Narrator: Don’t wait, call our toll-free number now. Get Sport’s Illustrated for all your favorite fans at SI’s biggest Christmas savings ever, and get the football phone free, plus a gift card.
Guy #2 (on the phone) get Sport’s Illustrated for me for Christmas. I want this phone!