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

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

Last year, O2 provided free data plans to over 200 Big Issue vendors, allowing them to pay contactless and providing a vital support at a time when 52% of magazine sales are contactless. This year, the company will offer monthly data to the magazine’s entire network of providers. This comes as 18.7 million people are expected to see their ability to get online impacted by the cost of living crisis[1].

In the UK, nine out of ten face-to-face transactions are now contactless, making vendor access to data critical to the successful sale of the magazine. On average, vendors who use contactless earn 30% more than those who don’t.

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

Stevie Paterson from Edinburgh, one of the Big Issue providers who received O2 data last year, explains: “The O2 SIM was really important to me. That meant I could set myself up on Zettle to accept contactless payments – now I use it to sell about half my magazines.”

Middlesbrough Big Issue provider Darren Brown, who was also involved in the data launch last year, 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 something, I’ll help them with the maps on my phone and I’ve even had my supermarket groceries delivered. The O2 SIM card is the best I’ve had during the Big Issue.”

Russell Blackman, Managing Director at The Big Issue, said: “We are delighted to continue our invaluable work with Virgin Media O2 following the successful launch of the National Databank last year. Extending this opportunity to all Big Issue vendors will enable and empower them to increase their sales through cashless payments and access essential online services at this important time of the year. As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, support for those who might otherwise struggle to connect is vital. With O2 and the National Databank, we can help people stay better connected.”

Terri Squibb, Head of Partnerships at JUMP, part of Havas Entertainment, said, “This is truly a story where the media is a force for good in the world. We are evolving storytelling into richer content, using the UK’s top experts on homelessness, The Big Issue, to tell it. After the success of the first year, this year we are looking to reach more vendors through the partnership to ensure O2’s support package makes an even more meaningful difference.”

Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Media O2, explains: “This year, with our Christmas campaign, we wanted to not only help raise awareness of the support available through the National Databank, but also to put data into the hands of those who faced with a disconnected Christmas. As part of this, we are proud to be partnering with The Big Issue for the second year in a row to offer all providers access to free mobile data every month. We know from last year’s success that this connectivity is critical to facilitating mobile payments in an increasingly cashless society, helping providers stay connected with loved ones and access essential services.”

The launch of data plans for Big Issue providers is part of Virgin Media O2’s broader commitment to tackling data poverty. In partnership with national digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation, the company pioneered the National Databank in 2021 — like a food bank, but for data — which offers free mobile connectivity to people who need it, and pledged to be 61 by the end of 2020 Millions of GB of free data to donate in 2025. The company also recently announced that the database will be accessible for the first time in the high street via 10 O2 branches across the UK and has the database of O2 Christmas sim cards placed at the center of O2 ‘s big new festive advertising campaign .