January 16, 2014 / 8:45 PM / 4 years ago

T-Mobile can afford Macklemore concert after all

NEW YORK (Reuters) - T-Mobile US Chief Executive John Legere unveiled a plan to sponsor a concert by rapper Macklemore & Ryan Lewis just a week after saying his upstart carrier wouldn’t “waste our money” on such sponsorships.

T-Mobile announced the January 23 concert in Los Angeles just over a week after Legere said he was kicked out of a Macklemore concert hosted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by archrival AT&T Inc after he had crashed the event.

The companies are in a full-scale battle to steal each other’s customers after No. 2 U.S. mobile service AT&T on January 3 offered to pay T-Mobile customers who switch to AT&T from the smaller carrier following months of direct marketing attacks from T-Mobile.

Legere had said at his own company’s press conference on January 8 that T-Mobile would focus on giving his customers a better deal rather than charging more so it could afford to hold expensive high-profile events, like Macklemore concerts.

“We didn’t have a big concert with Macklemore the other night. I had to crash because we don’t waste our money on this kind of stuff,” Legere had told reporters in response to a question about the potential for a U.S. price war.

But only days later, the executive - who peppers his speeches with expletives and sharp criticism of his bigger rivals - seems to have found enough spare cash for T-Mobile to act as presenting sponsor for a concert, albeit a public one.

T-Mobile spokeswoman Anne Marshall argued that its Macklemore concert, to take place at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, isn’t analogous to the one AT&T sponsored for a private audience at CES.

“If we do something we want to do it for fans, for potential customers,” she said. “It’s about the audience, we’re not doing this for an elite group.”

She declined to say how much T-Mobile was spending to sponsor the concert, tickets for which will go on sale Friday. AT&T’s Macklemore concert at CES was a fully-sponsored event to which no tickets were sold.

“My appreciation for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis seems to be the worst kept secret in the social hemisphere,” Legere said in a statement about the upcoming show.

Macklemore, a rapper from Seattle, performs with producer Ryan Lewis. T-Mobile’s headquarters are in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle. T-Mobile US is 67 percent owned by Deutsche Telekom.

Reporting by Sinead Carew and Liana Baker; Editing by G Crosse and Chris Reese

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