Virgin Media shows how brands can curb online negativity through celebrity endorsement

Virgin Media shows how brands can curb online negativity through celebrity endorsement

Virgin Media’s campaign featuring sports celebrity Usain Bolt is an example of how telecom brands can reduce negativity around service and customer care on their social media platforms and move brand discussion towards more positive topics.

Many telecoms adverts broadcast on social media end up attracting more negative than positive responses, showing the challenge for service providers to move online discussion away from customer service complaints. Telecoms companies such as T-Mobile and BT have used strategies such as attack ads against rivals and crowd-sourcing, but these have often backfired with consumers wishing telecom brands would “focus on improving their service”. However, Virgin Media’s Double Speed campaign, with Usain Bolt impersonating Virgin’s CEO Richard Branson, suggests that celebrity endorsement can generate a more positive response from social media users.
WaveMetrix analysis shows that Virgin Media’s inclusion of sport personality Usain Bolt in the campaign generates a higher proportion of positive responses from Facebook fans, in comparison with T-Mobile’s attack ad and BT’s Adam and Jane crowd-sourcing campaign. Although not all the negativity around customer care is wiped out in the case of Virgin Media, the campaign provides a good example of how brands can shift online discussion from negativity around customer care to positivity around the brand image.
Overall response to the campaign is more positive for Virgin Media than other telecoms campaigns:

  • Consumers respond more positively to Virgin Media’s campaign featuring Usain Bolt: Compared to other campaigns broadcast by telecom brands in 2011, Virgin Media’s is the only one to attract a higher proportion of positive rather than negative sentiment, suggesting celebrity endorsement is a good way to detract consumers from complaining about service-related issues and focus on more positive topics of discussion, such as the “cool” and “funny” campaign itself
  • T-Mobile attack ad and BT’s Adam and Jane adverts generate less positivity: T-Mobile’s attack ad against rivals AT&T and Verizon backfires, as consumer focus remains on T-Mobile’s service and leads to complaints around the brand’s “poor” coverage. BT’s crowdsourcing campaign asked fans to decide on what would happen next in the Adam and Jane series, but fans asked BT in return to “stop wasting millions”



Anonymous 17th January 2012

I am wondering if the method of data collection on FB was via likes or comments on the respective companies fan pages. The overall sentiment is valid just the ad comparison used makes me wonder how they worked it out.

Leonie Bulman 19th January 2012


Thanks for your comment! We used human analyst to collect and code data and this dataset is based on comments responding to the campaign videos posted on the Virgin Media Facebook page. The comparison to other ads is based on data collected for those particular studies, so comments on the T-Mobile attack ad and comments on the BT crowdsourcing ad at the time they broadcast it on their Facebook page. I hope that answers your questions and please feel free to contact me at lb@"Embedded URL removed for security reasons" if you'd like more information.

Many thanks,

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