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A T-Mobile promo push

Plan: Give celebs a Sidekick

T-Mobile is calling on some friends in Hollywood again to help launch its next Sidekick.

T-Mobile USA is eager to reboot its core cellphone brand, long overshadowed by Apple’s iPhone, and try to make the Sidekick as popular as it was as when Paris Hilton was regularly seen texting away on its keyboard after the first handsets bowed in late 2002.

Nearly a decade later, the company hopes some celebrity exposure will again rub off on the brand. It’s handing out Sidekicks to celebs, getting them on the sets of movies, TV shows and musicvideos and planning to increase the amount of coin it spends on sponsorships and events.

While a music program is also being planned, T-Mobile is pairing with the NBA and pushing the Sidekick during the playoffs and finals.

“We want to bring the Sidekick to life by getting it into people’s hands — the influencers and consumers to show how it’s evolved,” said Mike Belcher, VP of sponsor-ships and events for T-Mobile.

Popular on Variety

The campaign, which should run through the rest of the year, kicked off last week with a lavish launch event in a parking lot next to the Beverly Hilton, where the Strokes played for an eclectic crowd that included singer Kelis, former “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka, skateboarder Tony Hawk and thesps Emile Hirsch, Emmy Rossum and John Stamos. Paris may have been missing at the $1 million affair, but her sister Nicky made it.

The phone’s older Sidekick II has a prominent cameo in the Weinstein Co.’s “Scream 4,” although the logo had to be removed because of the pic’s R rating and gratuitous violence. Previous placements have included “Project Runway,” “90210,” “Entourage,” “Gossip Girl” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Because the Sidekick’s design, with its signature pop-up screen and large keyboard that requires two hands, is unmistakable, T-Mobile has so far opted to go after free placements rather than spend the coin to help co-promote projects, which would guarantee it more screentime.

But it may have to start brokering those types of deals (with the help of its PR agency, PMK-BNC) as competition heats up in the cellphone biz.

T-Mobile may soon have the dollars to spend: AT&T revealed plans to buy the carrier in March for $39 billion in a deal that would combine the second and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers.

Last year, T-Mobile USA spent $573 million on advertising, according to Kantar Media. AT&T’s marketing budget was $2.09 billion.

For now, T-Mobile is enjoying the buzz from its latest shindig.

Its last event took place on the Paramount lot in 2009 for the launch of the Sidekick LX and brought rockers Blink-182 out of retirement.

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