INTEGRATED: MARKETING CHALLENGE; Littlewoods goes back to basics to restore pools success

Meg Carter discovers how the football pools is on its way to recovery, this time by returning to its origins

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

value games.

‘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


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