Hugs, kisses and handshakes are at the top on many Americans' post-pandemic wish lists. However, some are dreaming bigger and looking forward to travel, fine dining and parties. The lottery sells dreams, and as the pandemic stretches on, many are buying. State lotteries are ramping up their websites, apps and social media activations to market to dreamers, using online purchasing options, content marketing and social media activations. And, in order to build trust with their players, lotteries are also using their social media channels to publish reports that provide transparency on the distribution of proceeds and funding of local charities and to post important public service announcements.
U.S. Lottery Sales Grow In 2020, With Growth For Both Big & Small Lotteries
45 U.S. states have lotteries. According to a study from La Fleur, 20 states reported growth in lottery ticket sales in 2020, with Ohio and Maryland reporting gains of more than 15%. Instant ticket sales in the U.S. were up 7% in the second quarter of 2020. Surprisingly, the large national games, Powerball and Mega Millions, saw declines in sales during that time, likely due to smaller jackpots early in the pandemic, reported Jeff Barker in The Washington Post. National lottery sales appear to be turning around in 2021 as Powerball announced a jackpot of $640 million in January, the fifth-biggest jackpot in Powerball history, and Mega Millions reported a $1 billion payout to a lucky Michigan winner on January 22. Big jackpots drive big spikes in ticket sales, and lotteries across the country are advertising these jackpots every day on their websites, apps and social channels to build excitement and drive sales.
Lotteries Shift Toward Online Sales, A Trend Likely To Stick Around Through 2021
Many industries shifted their focus to online sales in 2020 as consumers pivoted to online shopping. Players expected their state lotteries to do the same, and it appears that the shift to online is happening. In January, Washington, DC was the most recent U.S. jurisdiction to add online sales for its DC Lottery instant tickets, joining seven other states. Six additional states offer online draw tickets, individually or by subscription.
Online sales across all industries rose sharply during the pandemic, and the shift in purchasing habits is not likely to change after the COVID-19 crisis abates. The adoption of online sales options may be necessary for lotteries to maintain and scale broad interest.
Lotteries Deploy Online Platforms & User-Generated Content
Even states that are not currently selling online have ramped up marketing on their websites, apps and social media channels to promote lottery sales. Ohio has not yet adopted online ticket sales, but the Ohio lottery website and app, Oh!Lottery, have a lot to offer players, including announcements for winning numbers, retailer locations, new games and promotions, rewards programs for regular players and links to social media activations. The Oh!Lottery website also features a blog to share winners’ stories including for Partners in Education, a program the Ohio Lottery started in 2007 to recognize the efforts of hard-working students and teachers in the state. The Ohio Lottery encourages winners and community members to share photos with the hashtag #IWonTheOHLottery!, creating user-generated content (UGC) for social media engagement. Authentic lottery stories provide engaging experiences essential for lotteries to acquire new players and retain regulars.
Social Media Marketing & Social Responsibility Initiatives Drive Lottery Sales
A market forecast report by Technavio for 2020-2024 states “one of the key drivers for this [global lottery] market will be the adoption of social media.” When lotteries gain followers on social media, they broaden their opportunities for consistent, on-going messaging. Regular posts on winners and jackpots drive home the message that dreams do come true and winning is possible, which keeps people buying tickets. Other social media strategies to promote lotteries include funding reports to provide transparency, details about fundraising partnerships with charities and public service announcements (PSAs).
Lotteries Build Trust Through Transparency In Public Funding On Social Channels
Across the nation, lottery proceeds are used by states to fund public education and other public programs, such as veterans’ assistance programs in Texas. Some states, including New Hampshire, Missouri, Illinois, Georgia and Maine, post “where the money goes” reports on their social channels and websites to provide transparency on exactly how much money goes to specific social programs. This transparency builds trust with regular lottery ticket purchasers and brings in new customers who want to support these public programs. The New Hampshire Lottery’s tagline, “When you play the lottery, everyone wins,” is an example of messaging that communicates that the lottery is for the common good.
Charity Partnerships Increase Social Media Reach For State Lotteries
The Illinois state lottery pledged 100% of profits on their It Takes Two instant tickets to the Special Olympics of Illinois in February. By supporting the Special Olympics, the Illinois lottery connected with socially minded followers and the thousands of followers of Special Olympics Illinois. The Arizona Lottery Gives Back program donated more than $10 million to early childhood development programs last year, unifying their players with the message, “Together, we’re making Arizona a stronger state.” Colorado Lottery connects with the outdoor enthusiasts in its state by supporting both Great Outdoors Colorado and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Charity partnerships can increase social media outreach and drive fundraising for the charity and sales for the lottery. Many people who have reservations about buying lottery tickets may respond to positive messaging and corporate social responsibility.
Lotteries Share PSAs As Community Service
Many state lotteries are using their social media channels to post public service announcements (PSAs). The Virginia Lottery partnered with the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling over the holidays to create a PSA reminding consumers that the lottery is for adults only. The New York Lottery and the Arizona Lottery have recently posted PSAs on COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and locations. The Texas lottery shares Amber Alerts to notify citizens about missing children. PSA announcements on state lottery social channels reinforce the message that the lottery is a service to the state and builds goodwill with their followers.
Lotteries Offer Excitement & Build Energy With Multichannel Campaigns
As the pandemic stretches on, excitement is hard to come by. But state lotteries are creating excitement through digital advertising on dynamic platforms. Lotteries sell the dream of winning, and social media keeps that dream alive in followers’ minds. During the pandemic, consumers have connected to messaging that shows empathy and compassion, and state lotteries’ support for public programs, charitable partnerships, “give back” programs and PSAs strengthen those connections. Large jackpots build excitement for Powerball and Mega Millions, but any brand that markets a dream can build excitement through regular engagement that delivers the right message at the right time to keep audiences motivated and ready to take action.
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