Virgin Media O2 to Roll Out Free Mobile Data to All Big Issue Vendors

Virgin Media O2 has announced it will work with the Big Issue Group to support all Big Issue retailers with free O2 SIMs and data vouchers, as the cost of living crisis deepens this Christmas.

Last year O2 gave free data plans to more than 200 major digital retailers, enabling them to take contactless payments, providing significant support at a time when 52% of magazine sales are via contactless. This year the company will provide monthly data to the magazine’s entire network of vendors. It comes as it is reported that 18.7 million people are expected to have the ability to get online affected by the cost of living crisis.[1].

In the UK, nine out of ten person-to-person transactions are now contactless, making marketers’ access to data vital to selling magazines successfully. On average, salespeople who use contactless earn 30% more than those who don’t.

The partnership between Virgin Media O2 and Big Issue Group, is brokered by Havas Entertainment’s specialist content and partnerships division JUMP. The campaign sees O2 integrated across advertorial, social, newsletter, display and PR through The Big Issue. Now in its second year, the award-winning campaign won the PPA Award for Professional Partnership of the Year.

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Stevie Patterson from Edinburgh, one of the big case vendors who gave O2 data last year, explained, “The O2 SIM was really important to me. It meant I could set myself up on Zettle to accept contactless payments – now, I sell about half my magazines. That’s the way.”

Middlesbrough’s Big Issue vendor Darren Brown, who was also part of last year’s data roll-out, said: “I’ve never been a technology person, but they showed me how to use it and access the internet. If a customer is looking for somewhere, I help them with a map on my phone, and I have my supermarket shopping delivered. The O2 SIM card is the best thing I’ve ever gotten through a big problem.”

Russell Blackman, Managing Director of The Big Issue, says: “Following the successful launch of the National Databank last year, we are delighted to continue our invaluable work with Virgin Media O2. By extending this opportunity to all major issue vendors, it will enable them to increase their sales through cashless payments at this crucial time of the year, as well as access essential online services. As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, support is critical for those who might otherwise struggle to connect. With O2 and the National Databank, we can help people stay better connected.

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Terry Squibb, Head of Partnerships at JUMP, part of Havas Entertainment, said: “This really is a story where media is a force for good in the world. We’re developing the story into richer content using The Big Issue, the UK’s best experts on homelessness, to help tell it. Following the success of the first year, we look forward to reaching more vendors this year through partnerships to ensure O2’s support package makes an even more meaningful difference.”

Gareth Turpin, chief commercial officer at Virgin Media O2, says, “This year we wanted our Christmas campaign to not only raise awareness of the support available through the National Databank, but also get data into the hands of those facing a disconnected Christmas. We are proud to partner with Big Issue for the second year in a row to provide access to free mobile data. We know from last year’s success that this connectivity is critical to facilitating mobile payments in an increasingly cashless society, as well as helping vendors stay in touch with loved ones and access key services. “

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The roll-out of data plans to big issue retailers comes as part of Virgin Media O2’s wider commitment to tackling data poverty. Partnering with the Good Things Foundation, a national digital inclusion charity, the company pioneered a national databank in 2021 – like a foodbank but for data – to provide free mobile connectivity to people in need, pledging to donate 61 million GB of free data by the end. 2025. The company recently announced that Databank will be accessible on the high street for the first time through 10 O2 stores in the UK, and has put Databank front and center in O2’s major new festive advertising campaign alongside O2 Christmas SIM cards. .


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