It was never going to be easy for the Pools companies to take on the National Lottery, as Littlewoods has found to its cost with the withdrawal of one of the keystones of its attack, the Quick Pix coupon (MW last week).
Quick Pix was launched in October 1995 to attract players who didn’t follow football. Backed with a 10m marketing spend it was a simplified version of the Pools, where players picked numbers corresponding to league fixtures. It was designed to attract some of those people who found the National Lottery a simple and fun way to win millions.
In a landmark deal, Littlewoods announced it would sell the Quick Pix coupons through 17,500 Post Offices. Two great British dinosaurs were linking hands and expecting to skip happily off into the sunset together. But unfortunately for the two leviathans, the tie-up had little appeal to the 1 punters. The deal assumed that people popping into the Post Office to cash benefit cheques would take the opportunity to play a simplified version of the pools.
Quick Pix failed because of the supremacy of the National Lottery in distribution, in ad support and because the Lottery is associated with those huge life-changing jackpots. The pools’ 2m top prize pales by comparison. There is still a market for the pools, but it is clearly among those who like to predict the outcome of foot ball matches, rather than those interested in playing a lottery.
The pools was relaunched yet again in August with a new 6.5m ad campaign through D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. The relaunch involved cutting the number of teams on the sheet from 58 to 49 in a further move to simplify the game. But the message from the Quick Pix fiasco seems to be that people will not play the pools for simplicity – if they want easy rules, they will enter the National Lottery online draw.
But Littlewoods cannot just sit back and allow the pools to be ravaged by the Lottery. Results for the six months to July this year show sales in the Littlewoods Leisure division collapsing by one third to 245m.
Littlewoods is testing an online version of playing the pools through supermarket retailer Wm Morrison. Yet again, Littlewoods is trying to beat Camelot at its own game by having terminals in retail outlets. It has also relaunched its scratchcards, this time as “Scratchies”.
The company reckons it is well placed to take advantage of a growing market. Yet scratchcards are the least successful part of Camelot’s business and their sales collapsed earlier in the year. The UK is not ideal for scratchcards, they have a rather downmarket feel. For this reason, Camelot launched its online game before venturing into scratchcards.
Littlewoods must content itself with a smaller share of the soft gaming market, though it is clearly not going to let go without a fight.