The press advertisement for Vodafone featured an image of tiered stadium seating. The writing on the banner to the front of the seating read “# TEAM OF US”. The IRFU logo featured alongside the Vodafone logo. The advertisement stated “Vodafone 4G to the rescue. At the Aviva, we've boosted the signal so every seat has the best mobile coverage. Perfect if you like to watch the highlights at half time while enjoying a hot dog. Vodafone Power to you”.
In a box designed to look like a text search screen, the following text appeared:
‘instant match highlights’.
The complainants, Three Ireland, considered that the advertisement had specifically focussed on coverage in “every seat” in the Aviva Stadium and this together with the claim of “best mobile coverage” was an absolute claim that had not been qualified and accordingly it could only reasonably be read as a comparative advertisement under the Code.
They considered that the claim ‘best mobile coverage’ implied that Vodafone had superior or superlative coverage in every seat in the Aviva Stadium and that this should be capable of substantiation by Vodafone.
In the absence, they said, of there being substantiation of best mobile coverage in every seat, the advertisement was in breach of the Code and had the effect of misleading consumers.
The advertisers said they had received significant positive publicity for their upgrading of the network capability in the Aviva Stadium. They said the upgrading work was a multimillion euro project that was delivered over a period of one year. They said that no other operator had invested or undertaken this scale of network development in the Aviva Stadium.
In terms of an overview the advertisers said that the key upgrading work had included the following.
• Installing up to 20km of cable into the stadium along with 259 antennae to enhance connectivity.
• Testing the solution for every seat in the stadium, with the criteria that even if the stadium was filled with almost 40,000 Vodafone customers (meaning over 75% of all attendees, at a sold out Rugby match, as suggested by the #TeamofUs(1) branding in the image), connectivity would remain optimal/best. They considered, however,
that the likelihood of over 75% of all attendees at the Aviva Stadium being Vodafone customers was highly unlikely. (They explained that they had chosen the 75% benchmark as it was significantly in excess of their market share, circa 43%).
• Tests ensured that 3G, 4G and 4G+ connectivity were all available under this 40,000 criteria.
In the light of their investment and network upgrade the advertisers said they knew that their customers enjoyed the best mobile coverage in the Stadium no matter where their seat was positioned.
The advertisers disputed Three’s assertion that their advertising had specifically focussed on coverage in ‘every seat’ in the Aviva Stadium. The advertisement was focussed on an aspect of a game that customers might enjoy via technology i.e. instant match highlights while at the same time enjoying a ‘hot dog’. They said that it was part of a wider campaign 4G to the rescue that they had been using since April 2016. They also said that the advertisement spoke to the Vodafone network and the optimum network experience that their customers could enjoy when in the Aviva Stadium – because of the unpreceded network upgrade that had taken place.
In conclusion the advertisers said that in view of their unmatched network upgrade in the Aviva Stadium which resulted in 40,000 Vodafone customers being able to enjoy optimum/best network performance right across every seat occupied by them, they considered they were entitled to promote the network coverage which they could provide as a result of their upgrade.
(1) A reference to Vodafone Ireland becoming Irish Rugby’s official main sponsor
Complaint Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted the advertisement highlighted the fact that Vodafone customers could enjoy the same service regardless of where they were sitting as a result
of the work which Vodafone had carried out in upgrading their network capability in the Aviva Stadium. They also noted that the benchmark to test the capacity was robust, being at least 20% more than the advertisers’ market share.
The Committee considered that the advertisement was addressed to Vodafone customers to advise them of this work and the service they could expect as a result. The Committee did not consider that the advertising was in breach of Sections 4.31 or 4.33 of the Code.
No further action was required in this case.