States Use Tough Times to Tout Their Lotteries

Governments Alter Messages, Employ Social Networks to Reach New Audiences

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NEW YORK ( -- Pay a little for the chance to dream big. That's the appeal of the lottery, and it seems it is recession proof. Even so, state governments are taking marketing of their lottos more seriously than ever, with different pitches and value-added offers such as gas discounts with purchase.
"There has been a general increase in lottery sales," said Gary Kubo, a director at Independent Lottery Research, a consultancy that specializes in lottery marketing and research. "You are starting to see people migrate to the lottery not out of necessity but as a way to earn a little extra cash."

Historically, lottery messaging has changed to align itself with the country's economic health, according to experts. "In the late '80s/early '90s, winning was about getting what you wanted -- a Porsche or a mansion -- because Americans were financially healthy but were craving the better things in life," said Jessica Halter-Powell, senior VP-account director at West Coast indie shop David & Goliath. Back then, she said, "Greed was not only OK, it was good. After Sept. 11, winning was about financial security for your family. DDB did this well for the New York Lottery with their 'If I Had a Million Dollars' campaign. The message was altruistic and struck a chord with New Yorkers."

These days, taking that "Be the most resented person you know because you won the lottery" tone is outdated in lottery messaging, said Mike Doherty, president of Seattle-based Cole & Weber United, which recently picked up the Washington State Lottery's marketing account after a review. "It's more fun to think about what you can do with the money in a more positive way."

The Texas State Lottery just last week stepped up its marketing efforts with an upbeat new campaign from Omnicom Group's TracyLocke, using the tagline "Maybe It's Your Lucky Day."

Pumping up lottery
Beyond altering messaging, lottos are increasingly stepping out of the box with their marketing. Capitalizing on the country's gas crisis, the Missouri Lottery has partnered with pump owners to offer gas discounts with the purchase of a $2 ticket. "This is a great chance for us to promote our new 'Show Me Cash' game, which has a rolling jackpot, while at the same time giving players some relief from the high gas prices," said Adam Hall, director-marketing for the Missouri Lottery, in a statement.

Also growing popular are branded-entertainment deals that aim to spur sales. The Tennessee Lottery partnered with Hollywood for the first time this year to tap the buzz around "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," with an instant-ticket game offering a chance to win up to $100,000 or movie-themed prizes. Some state lotteries offer tickets themed with NBC game show "Deal or No Deal."

In a throwback move, Colorado recently experimented with retro-style, $3 scratch-and-sniff tickets in coffee, floral and chocolate scents.

Experts say novel marketing to keep up revenue is especially important for lotteries in down economic times, though tightening budgets are forcing them to stretch their marketing dollars. "Lotteries have their marketing plans and budgets set a year in advance, so infusing new cash isn't usually something that happens because they don't have that kind of discretionary cash," said Mr. Kubo.

One inexpensive strategy many have embarked on is boosting their presence via social-networking sites like Facebook. The Nebraska Lottery set up a page where it uploads TV spots and Flickr photos of winners, while the Iowa Lottery offers regular updates on its page such as this one: "Whoa! The Powerball jackpot was not claimed yesterday, so the prize for the Wednesday, Sept. 24 drawing is an incredible $176 million!"

"The emerging market of 18- to 34-year-olds is a key market. ... [Lottos] need to get themselves more integrated into the younger player base; and they've got to reach out to them in nontraditional ways," said Mr. Kubo.
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