Batter up! Amid reports that private manager Northstar Lottery Group isn’t making the revenue numbers it brashly told Illinois officials it could hit, the Illinois Lottery this week is turning its attention to a new game to entice more people to buy Lottery tickets.
The new offering is designed to attract the vast legions of fans of that most all-American of sports — baseball.
After much effort behind the scenes to get various aspects of the new Lottery game revamped to the satisfaction of all who have oversight of it (including Illinois Lottery superintendent Michael Jones), the new $2 scratch-off game is expected to roll out as early as today.
The game will feature tickets spotlighting no fewer than three professional baseball teams with significant fan bases in Illinois. The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox-branded tickets were designed to play to their respective followers in and around the huge Chicago market.
But the third team involved in the scratch-off game — the St. Louis Cardinals — might be something of a surprise to some Illinois residents. Arch rival of the Cubs, the Cards are said to have a surprisingly large number of supporters in downstate Illinois just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
Lottery management missing its revenue mark
Northstar Lottery executives hope the new baseball-themed game will spark new sales all over the state because the Illinois Lottery management team has yet to hit the revenue marks it suggested it could when Northstar pitched for the 10-year management contract two years ago.
Now, sources say, Northstar may be trying to work out a deal with the state to allow those revenue projections to be reworked, thereby possibly reducing or eliminating any penalty Northstar could be required to pay for falling short.
While Northstar has been figuring out how to boost Lottery sales, it has been trying to establish a working relationship with new Lottery superintendent Michael Jones.
He has brought a new mode of operation to the Lottery and a renewed focus on marketing that isn’t necessarily what Northstar was expecting when it barreled over competitors and won the Lottery management contract.
New baseball cards made on short notice
Just getting this new baseball scratch-off game up and ready to go has involved numerous adjustments. The initial designs for the tickets themselves, sources day, didn’t pass muster, and they were scrapped.
New Illinois Lottery ad agency of record Downtown Partners/Chicago was called in on short notice to help with a ticket redesign. The final tickets boldly, yet simply display all or part of each team’s logo, leaving little doubt as to which team each Lottery ticket buyer supports.
The simple look of the Lottery tickets also will help the new game draw attention amidst the clutter of the typical convenience store where many Lottery tickets are purchased.
“To attract new players, we need progressive, attractive designs that can break through the clutter of the busy retail environment,” explained Jessica Powell, vice president of marketing and advertising for Northstar.
“The boldness of the new Sox, Cubs and Cardinals tickets will definitely attract baseball fans when they are in Illinois Lottery retailers,” added Powell.
Prizes — another part of the total package that sparks interest — also had to be enriched at the last minute beyond what was initially envisioned for the Lottery baseball game.
Now instant prizes for the game will include up to $25,000 payouts, as well as 2013 season ticket packages to the Cubs, Sox and Cardinals. The grand prizes are two getaway packages to the 2012 World Series.
Spots being shot now for late May airing
Downtown Partners/Chicago is expected to shoot television commercials as early as this week to promote the new baseball-themed Lottery game. The new spots could break in the next two or three weeks.
Locales for the TV commercial shoot are expected to include a baseball field, possibly U.S. Cellular Field, where a group of actors will create a spot that ties the new baseball scratch-off game to the overarching “Anything’s Possible” marketing theme for the Illinois Lottery that kicked off in March.
Just how excited the public gets over the new baseball game may hinge in part on how well the teams involved play as the season rolls along. Right now, the White Sox and the Cubs don’t appear to be serious World Series contenders. But it’s still early.
Meanwhile, Northstar is going to have to focus on boosting its revenue numbers. The new baseball game is one way it hopes to do that. “You’ve got to have games that are relevant to sell Lottery tickets,” said one source.
Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com