Wednesday 17 January 2018

National Lottery online sales a winner as it aims to celebrate 30 years with €5bn for good causes

Head of Marketing Michael Hayes explains to John McGee how digital has become a successful channel for growing sales

Michael Hayes, head of marketing, the National Lottery
Michael Hayes, head of marketing, the National Lottery

John McGee

With a reported turnover of €670m in 2015, the National Lottery is one of the country's most visible brands.

Celebrating 30 years in business this year, the licence to run the Lottery is owned by Premier Lotteries Ireland, which paid the State €405m to operate it for 20 years in 2014.

Heading up the company's marketing division since November 2016 is Michael Hayes, an experienced marketing professional who has cut his teeth working with a number of consumer-facing companies such as Irish Biscuits, Diageo, Robert Roberts, Meteor and more recently Musgraves.

What has changed since Premier Lotteries acquired the licence in 2014?

"Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI) was awarded the licence to operate the National Lottery in February 2014 and commenced operations in November 2014. Staff and management of An Post National Lottery Company, headed up by ceo Dermot Griffin, then transferred to PLI.

"Dermot has been at the helm of the business for the past decade and has overseen transition as well as implementation of a new operations board team as well as game innovations to drive continued growth over the 20-year licence term.

"Since taking over in November 2014, PLI has invested heavily in the future of the Lottery with completion of an extensive technology infrastructure upgrade as part of the largest technology transition in Irish FMCG history. It has also invested in a refresh of the Lottery's game portfolio and the launch of new retail and player-centric online and mobile strategies."

How has the marketing function changed?

"The main change has been the creation of a new digital marketing and social media group that has been added to the team as we seek to accelerate the growth and further develop our online proposition. We now have a multi-channel business model and as a marketing function we are resourced to support and drive growth through our rapidly expanding retail and new online channels."

How has the online push worked out to date?

"As with most brands it's really important to be in tune with customers' changing lifestyles and shopping behaviours and we have responded to our customers' need for convenience and their desire to shop and buy online and playing Lottery games is no different. In the last three years alone we have seen the percentage of our sales derived from digital/online channels go from 1.8pc to over 6pc.

"Our marketing strategy is quite simple really: we have a great online product platform both web and mobile app, but not enough people are aware of it. Our strategy now is to build awareness. Last September, we launched our new mobile app with a multi-media brand advertising campaign themed 'Play Anywhere - Win Anywhere'. This year will see a continued push behind our online proposition with further software upgrades and releases that will bring new features and functionality."

The company is one of the most visible advertisers in the market: how important is advertising to the business?

"We are consistently in the top 20 most advertised brands in Ireland and this is only appropriate as we have a responsibility under our licence to protect, develop and enhance the brand both in terms of awareness but also in terms of reputation, ensuring that through our advertising and marketing that the National Lottery brand has both a high profile and a positive profile.

"In terms of our media spend and media channel mix, TV remains our number one medium as it still has the best reach in terms of our primary core target audience of all adults and is especially effective at delivering the big brand campaigns that strengthen the consumer's emotional connection to our games and the brand.

"However, we also advertise across outdoor, digital out of home, print and radio platforms as these media are very effective in delivering strong direct response results around our weekly jackpot messaging campaigns. It's also fair to say that - as with most big consumer brands operating in today's ever-changing social lifestyle and media landscape - our media mix has shifted to reflect these trends with an increasing percentage of our overall media spend going towards online, social and digital media channels reflecting the media consumption habits of our players."

In all the marketing noise surrounding the brand, has the Lottery's original primary purpose - to support good causes - been overlooked?

"That's a fair observation and it's a perception that's out there among the public. The reality is different as, with the growth in sales, we have seen an equivalent growth in the funds raised for good causes. The total raised is now at a staggering €4.9bn and growing, so we have to ensure that we are raising the awareness of the good causes funds being raised through the playing of our games as it's a vital part of why we are here.

"We are developing a new CSR and good cause awareness communications strategy and campaign programme that will be delivered later this year. In the meantime, we have raised the profile of our good causes across all our PR messages and on our social media and corporate websites. Later in 2017 we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the National Lottery - and 30 years of raising funds for good causes will be a key focus of these celebrations."

Sunday Indo Business

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