David Lloyd Leisure claimed to have ‘more activities, programmes and facilities for families and children than any other health and fitness group.’ On a challenge by a competitor, the ASA said Lloyd had to substantiate not one but two alleged meanings of the one comparative claim. More at
David Lloyd Leisure
The Advertising Standards Authority
In a national press advertisement for its health and fitness clubs, David Lloyd Leisure ("DLL") claimed to have "more activities, programmes and facilities for families and children than any other health & fitness group". Competitor Esporta Group Limited complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, challenging the claim.
DLL puts its case
DLL answered the complaint by asserting first of all that the claim was clearly based on the total group performance and the number of activities that they provided across the board. On this parameter DLL was a much larger chain than Esporta, with 70,000 more members and more facilities for families and children.
DLL also asserted that it ran the largest junior tennis programme in Europe and had more than 12,000 juniors swimming in weekly swimming programme. It said that unlike many other gym chains, their clubs often had both crèches and nurseries and an extra splash pool for children. They also said that they had been voted "most parent-friendly gym chain" by Tommy's, the baby charity. They said their club lounges had children's menus, free internet access and colourful soft play areas as standard. They supplied details of their activities, programmes and facilities for families and children at ten clubs around the country.
"Not good enough" says ASA
But unfortunately this was not enough. The ASA's response was that DLL had still not supplied "robust comparative evidence" that described the facilities offered by their competitors in the same detail. The documentation submitted certainly indicated that their range of activities, programmes and facilities was superior to those of Esporta in some clubs, but they had not shown that they were superior overall or superior to all other competitors.
The ASA also considered that the claim would be understood by readers to mean not only that the Group as a whole offered more facilities than any other Group, but that each single DLL club had better facilities than any other individual club run by a competing group. Since neither of these claims had been substantiated the complaint was upheld and the authority advised DLL to seek help from the Copy Advice team in future.
Why this matters:
This case underlines the need to be absolutely certain of one's facts and substantiation before making out-and-out superiority claims. The ASA's view that there were two superior claims in one, mainly at group and individual club level, is in marketinglaw's view slightly harsh given that the wording of the claim itself was clearly pitched at group level and was not expressed to be referring to any individual DLL facility. At the end of the day, however, this had no impact on the outcome since the advertiser was unable to substantiate either meaning.