Littlewoods Pools

When the Lottery launched in 1994, the battle was on for Littlewoods Pools. Using ads created by DMB&B, the company set about refocusing on football to distance itself from its Camelot counterpart. The FA Premier League’s Steve Curnow (right)

When the National Lottery launched in November 1994, many predicted that Littlewoods Pools would die.

The odds were firmly stacked against it. Betting duty on the Lottery was 17 per cent; on Littlewoods it was 35 per cent. The Lottery had ubiquitous distribution; by law Littlewoods had a restricted retail presence. The Lottery was launched with a multimillion pound ad spend while Littlewoods had never been allowed to advertise on TV.

Littlewoods’ foundations were under siege. Its “dream” positioning had been smashed and grabbed: “Forget about being a millionaire, how about becoming a multi-millionaire?” The brand looked out of touch. By the time ad and retail restrictions were lifted, the Lottery had stolen 50 per cent of the pools’ business.

From the outset the key marketing objective was to retain current players, but it was also necessary to keep an eye on future growth. The ads had to rebuild and protect the brand, to demonstrate that the pools was alive and kicking. It needed to escape its “flat cap and whippet” image.

Littlewoods’ marketing activity had always focused on the big prize – spending winnings on dolly-birds and speed-boats. The game had been reduced to a mere lottery. It needed distinctive positioning. There is a clear point of difference: the pools is footballs, the Lottery is simply balls.

The ads needed to revive the brand by using the enthusiasm surrounding football results. The primary target was current pools players – young football fans. The brand had to be accessible to mainstream armchair fans and build some credentials within the football fraternity.

The campaign focuses on a high – winning the jackpot and the act of celebration. It kicked off with two executions: “Celebration” and “Last Minute”.

These were followed by Alan Hansen’s typically dour anti-celebration at the end of the year. The campaign uses the rousing endline “Littlewoods Pools. Get a result” and a “thumbs-up football” mascot, which both express the joy of winning. The TV media budget was 4m.

The campaign was launched at the start of the 1996/97 football season. Media was focused on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays to get out of the weekend football action and fix the idea in people’s heads when the collector comes round on Wednesday or Thursday for the coupon.

The campaign achieved strong results in both pre-test with IRB International and tracking through Hall & Partners (see chart).

The campaign didn’t just help stem the decline of business for the pools, sales grew by nine per cent and were sustained throughout 1996. It proved to be the highest upturn in Littlewoods’ 73-year history, and exceeded forecasts by four per cent.

Littlewoods continued the TV campaign to kick off the 1997/98 season with a tannoy announcer interrupting an Arsenal-Tottenham derby to ensure he wins his million.

The advertising has proved key to the successful maintenance strategy. It has been the main driver in shifting perceptions of the Littlewoods brand by putting football back into the pools. Littlewoods Pools got a result.


Commercial director: Tony Hillyer


Account director: David Farrow

Planning: Charlie Snow

Creative directors: Roger Holdsworth, Mick Mahoney, Andy Amadeo

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