BA offers free ads to small businesses

The airline giant is offering free newspaper and online ads to a number of small and medium-sized firms to mark the re-launch of its On Business loyalty scheme, a programme designed to 'help small firms maximise their travel budgets'.

BA has bought ad spaces in the Daily Mail and The Independent, with decorative clock company Newgate Clocks bagging the first slots, as well as offering ad space on its recently revamped On Business website.

As the PM acknowledged last week, small businesses will play a pivotal role in the economic recovery. But with many small firms still dealing with the fallout from the financial crisis, and marketing budgets consequently depleted, supporting entrepreneurs in this way could be a PR masterstroke for the airline.

And BA could certainly do with some positive press. It's been an extremely difficult year for the firm, which saw 22 days of cabin crew walk-outs cost the airline a reported £150m. Meanwhile, talks between BA CEO Willie Walsh and union Unite hit the headlines on an almost daily basis. Less tangible losses, in the form of waning customer confidence in the brand, could prove even more costly.

And the airline isn't out of the woods yet. With the recent snow at Heathrow compounding the firm's woes, and an escalating Egyptian crisis beginning to hit airlines' share prices, BA is now facing yet more strikes from cabin crew, as those who took part in the industrial action last year reportedly fighting to regain lost free travel perks.

As the Telegraph reports, there are even rumours of planned 'guerrilla' tactics such as calling strikes and cancelling them at the last minute to wreak havoc on the airline. This could result in two crews turning up for work and BA forced to pay both. Whatever happens, even rumoured strike action is potentially highly damaging. The airline industry is a competitive market, and this type of uncertainty could well drive customers into the hands of competitors.

Back to the free ads for small businesses: this announcement is certainly well timed; it is also the latest in a series of commendable efforts from the airline to alter its image and restore faith in the brand.

BA has been using increasingly innovative, well-targeted and headline-grabbing techniques. During the recent Ashes series, for instance, the airline launched an online promotion on flights from Sydney to London, offering flights discounted by the largest amount of runs England scored in a single Ashes innings.

While this proved popular with consumers, it had little impact on the small business market. Offering SMEs a platform to reach a wider audience - for free - is a compelling incentive. By tying this in with its loyalty scheme, the initiative could in turn give BA a much-needed boost.

Ian Romanis, head of loyalty at BA, said: "British Airways understands that the needs of small and medium-sized businesses often differ from those of larger companies and that they sometimes struggle to gain the benefits that many big businesses are offered in their industry, due to their size.

"We're pleased to be able to give some of our SME customers the opportunity to advertise to a broader audience and in turn to drive more revenue and grow."

What do you think of BA's bid to support SMEs? Should more large companies be following in the airline giant's footsteps? Tell us your thoughts below.

We use cookies to create the most secure and effective website possible for our customers. Full details can be found here