Meg Carter discovers how the football pools is on its way to recovery,
this time by returning to its origins
All summer we’ve been told ‘it’s coming home’ - now it’s fighting back.
Football pools companies, battered by the success of the National
Lottery, are strengthening their defences. For the market leader,
Littlewoods, this has meant a relaunch, supported by a pounds 6 million
integrated campaign designed to cement loyalty among existing and lapsed
players, as well as attract new clientele.
Not only has Littlewoods Pools invested in a high-profile TV campaign,
devised by DMB&B, it has also honed a variety of messages to target
different audiences via press, radio ads and a 9.5 million people direct
marketing drive through the sales promotion agency, IMP. It has also
redesigned its coupons and developed the first in a series of added
‘Over the years, the football pools came to be perceived by many as a
lottery. Players used the same numbers each week. Marketing activity
moved it away from football, emphasising the big prizes,’ Littlewoods’
marketing director, Tony Hillyer, explains.
Littlewoods Pools, founded in 1923, now has 80 per cent of the UK pools
market, worth around pounds 662 million. However, the success of the
National Lottery usurped the old positioning. By diluting the football
association to appeal to a broader audience, the pools operator found it
had diminished a distinctive unique selling point. The focus since has
been on establishing a more strategic and effective longer term plan.
The result is a ‘back to basics’ approach, putting the focus back on
football and the fact that Littlewoods Pools is a game that requires a
degree of knowledge or skill.
However, a balance had to be maintained between positioning the pools as
a game and suggesting it is complicated to play.
Despite the pools’ downmarket image, Littlewoods’ clientele is
attractive, Hillyer insists. He claims it enjoys a 30 per cent household
penetration and that, far from being a male pastime, the male:female
split amongst Littlewoods’ punters is close to 55:45.
The relaunch last month coincided with the start of the new football
season. But it has also coincided with the ending of the British
public’s honeymoon with Camelot. ‘A year ago, people were very much in
love with the National Lottery. Now, they are a little more mature and
prepared to listen to a different brand proposition,’ Hillyer claims.
‘Our key objective was to breathe new life into the brand,’ explains
DMB&B’s managing director, Barry Cook, ‘and to communicate clearly a
reason to play.’ Fun was a key element in the new campaign, which hangs
on three humorous TV ads. ‘There is little actual enjoyment in the
process of buying a lottery ticket,’ Cook adds.
Starting with a clean slate was a clear advantage, John Quarrey,
managing director of IMP, adds. DMB&B and IMP won the pounds 22 million
centralised account along with BBJ Media Services last year (Campaign,
December 15 1995). ‘The idea was to have one strong creative idea at the
campaign’s core, and make it work hard across all other aspects of
communication,’ he says. ‘We had to make sure nothing was put out which
allowed the public to lapse back into perceiving Littlewoods Pools as
old-fashioned and downmarket.’
National press ads conveyed specific messages, such as ease of play and
chances of winning. ‘Below the line, our focus was on getting the
Littlewoods’ infrastructure behind the whole thing,’ Quarrey says. This
involved redesigning and simplifying coupons, and producing a complete
brand presentation specifying one, not 20, typefaces which should be
used, a single design guide and a single mnemonic.
The redesigned coupon reduces featured matches from 58 to 49 -increasing
the chances of winning by 20 per cent, Hillyer adds. A new feature, the
Half Time Game, has also been introduced on the coupon - a free extra
game offering a potential prize of pounds 250,000.
The direct mailing will hit 9.5 million people in its first two months.
Around 20 different variations of the Littlewoods communication have
been designed to target a range of specific groups, including current
and lapsed users, users of competitors’ products and overseas players -
the latter will be encouraged to recommend a friend in exchange for a
pounds 10 phonecard.
The strategy even included the re-scripting of telephone calls made to
punters and re-education of pools collectors, to ensure a root and
branch adoption of the new communications tone.
Even so, there were difficulties associated with an integrated campaign
of this size, Hillyer concedes. ‘The tricky part is to decide what
detail to focus on in which message, so as to ensure a consistent
strategy throughout the whole.’
Timing was also critical. ‘Throughout all of the stages, it has been
important to ensure advertising breaking above and activities breaking
below the line are phased to get maximum impact.’
Media planning has been especially important, he adds: ‘Not least
because of Littlewoods’ sponsorship of the FA Cup. Every activity must
be co-ordinated to complement and not dilute any other.’
And monitoring the effectiveness of the strategy will be both tricky and
time-consuming. The direct marketing is, perhaps, the easiest to track:
different types of message will be researched to discover what works
best. Cook adds: ‘The test will be whether our contribution can do
anything to redress Littlewoods’ decline in business over the past few