How O2 overtook rivals with thanks to a festive purpose push

Taking the risk to pursue a purpose message over the festive period paid off for O2, which leapfrogged EE to grow total market consideration.

Virgin O2 Media MW Awards 2023
Source: Virgin Media O2

In the lead up to Christmas 2022, Virgin Media O2 decided to take a risk. Keen to move on from traditional brand purpose campaigns, the telecoms company chose to embrace activism during its most important commercial quarter.

The team’s ambition was to help the millions of people living with data poverty, a growing form of social inequality resulting in little or no internet access. O2 set out three objectives – to distribute data to those in need, drive brand health among its most valuable audiences and deliver sales.

Joining forces with agency VCCP, O2 devised the idea of producing 300,000 Christmas cards with 7GB of data embedded. The recipient could scan a festive QR code to request a voucher code or share the link. The cards built on O2’s existing partnership with the Good Things Foundation on the National Databank – a food bank-style service for connectivity.

The ‘Christmas Sim Card’ campaign ran across TV, on-demand, cinema, outdoor, social and audio, encouraging the public to ‘Give the gift of data’. This work was amplified by a partnership with the Big Issue, offering all vendors free access to the databank.

O2’s responsible business push resonated with its high-value audience segment, while awareness among prospective customers rose 5% year on year. The telecoms giant exceeded total market consideration by 3% for November 2022 to go ahead of rival EE, according to O2’s long-term tracking data.

Winner of the 2023 Marketing Week Award for Media and Telecoms, O2 also achieved its best Black Friday market share to date in 2022, with sales of handsets and sim cards increasing over the campaign period.