OPINION - Branson lottery bid heralds first marketing fight of next century

The confirmation that Richard Branson really is going to bid again against Camelot for the National Lottery licence will tee up one of the first great marketing and PR battles of the next century. The contest to see if something different is going to follow ’It could be you’, and ’Maybe just Maybe’ will, in publicity terms, be short and sweet.

The confirmation that Richard Branson really is going to bid again

against Camelot for the National Lottery licence will tee up one of the

first great marketing and PR battles of the next century. The contest to

see if something different is going to follow ’It could be you’, and

’Maybe just Maybe’ will, in publicity terms, be short and sweet.



The Lottery Commission, the body that decreed that pounds 100m worth of

working Camelot terminals should be junked to help ensure there is a

competition for the new licence, has also issued another surprising

diktat. Once bids go in on February 29 applicants are ’requested to

refrain, so far as their applications are concerned, from media

contact’. There are to be no press releases, no promotional material and

no staging of promotional events.



This will come hard for Branson as this ’request’ will undoubtedly cover

hot air balloons publicising The People’s Lottery and abseiling down

Nelson’s column. So you can expect a serious outburst of Branson between

now and February 29.



Such a publicity ban by the Lottery Commission is pompous and just plain

daft. Maximising the publicity surrounding the Camelot/People’s contest

would be a huge plus for the National Lottery, which has seen sales

reach a plateau. Peter Davis, the man who ran the previous lottery

regulatory body, Oflot, tried to impose just such a ban last time. Davis

was prepared to listen and after first announcing a ban on publicity,

decided to leave the matter up to the applicants. It should be the same

this time.



A Branson bid is, however, great news that will enliven some of the dog

days of the new millennium and will also ensure that, once again, the

Camelot team will have to sharpen its pencils.



Although Branson is perhaps the marketing supremo for the current

century, some of these claims do bear close scrutiny. The latest one is

the claim that people would spend more on lottery tickets if they knew

that all the profits went to good causes. There is no doubt that if

market researchers ask such a question people will claim to be willing

to spend more. Whether they will actually do so is much more

problematic. People play the lottery for one reason only - greed. The

money raised for good causes is a welcome side effect.There is also the

question of whether it is socially desirable for people to spend more on

the irrational 14 million to one shot of winning the jackpot.



Two main questions will face Branson when the ballyhoo ends and the bids

go in. One is if the People’s Lottery could handle the biggest ever

hand-over in the history of lotteries. Branson’s likely lottery

equipment supplier, AWI, won the Arizona lottery licence from GTech and

made such a mess of the handover that GTech had to be called in to sort

things out.



The second question is if a wholly commercial model will raise more for

good causes, even after profits have been deducted, than one where all

the profits go to good causes and charities.



But this time the game really is on.



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