CAMPAIGNS: Littlewoods is back in news with pools PR - Consumer PR

Client: Littlewoods PR Team: Brahm PR Campaign: 40th anniversary of the Pools Panel Timescale: September 2002 - February 2003 Budget: £6,000

In pre-lottery days, winning the football pools was a weekly dream.

For years, families huddled in front of the TV or radio at 4.45pm on a Saturday afternoon to hear the pools results - home win, away win, score draw et al.

While most players cursed their luck, a few would become instant millionaires and attract the inevitable media circus.

The panel first sat four decades ago during the 'big freeze' of 1963, when severe weather delayed the third round of the FA Cup. This caused problems for Littlewoods, which established its game in 1923. Two weeks into the freeze, a new panel was set up to create artificial results and keep the pools rolling.

The launch of the National Lottery in 1994, with larger prizes and numerous good causes, meant Littlewoods Pools' fortunes suffered. Although the largest pools company still attracts 1.5 million people each week in post-lottery UK, it's a far cry from the 15 million peak in the mid-1980s.

Objectives

To raise the profile of the Littlewoods Pools, which offers a jackpot of £2m. To attract new or lapsed players.

Strategy and Plan

The pools company and its PR team, Brahm, decided to use a historical angle to gain valuable publicity - the pools' 40th anniversary.

Brahm PR account manager Tim Downs says: 'We looked for upcoming dates and discovered the pools panel was marking this anniversary in January.

It's become something of an institution, and we thought it would be an interesting way to raise the profile of the game.'

The anniversary was regarded as a way to create a fresh news angle for what is actually a weekly event.

Planning began in September, when Brahm was appointed on a retainer basis.

The agency needed to bring the pools into the spotlight, and as the anniversary lasted for just one day, the team had to ensure the media would be hooked by the story.

The three current pools panel members - former England World Cup winners Gordon Banks and Roger Hunt, and former Scottish international Tony Green - were asked to meet the press on Saturday 25 January at the New Connaught Rooms in London, where the original board first met.

'The panel spoke to the media about how they worked and how they came to decisions. But the actual pools decisions that day were still done behind closed doors - as they always are,' says Downs.

Broadcasters, magazines, news agencies and papers were sent releases in the week leading up to the event - almost 40 years to the day when the first panel sat - along with an invitation to the day and background material on the history of the pools panel. Some broadcasters were given access to pools panel members before the Saturday date, so they could run the story that very day.

As a precursor to the main event, Brahm also targeted regional broadcasters two weeks beforehand to raise interest - primarily in the areas where the three panel members had played their club football.

Measurement and Evaluation

On 11 January, two weeks before the main event, Brahm set up interviews with BBC radio stations in Sheffield, Shropshire, Newcastle, Stoke and Merseyside, along with BBC Three Counties and GMR. Most of the regional stations repeated pieces on the actual anniversary as well.

The main event had coverage in The Guardian, the Sunday Express, The Times, the Independent on Sunday, When Saturday Comes and Shoot!

National broadcast coverage included BBC TV News, Sky Sports News, BBC World Service, TalkSport and Independent Radio News.

Regional print coverage included the Birmingham Post, Lancashire Evening Post, Birmingham Evening Mail, Newcastle Chronicle, Bristol Evening Post and Scotland's Sunday Post.

Results

In the two weeks following the 40th anniversary, Littlewoods Pools recorded a five per cent increase in players, compared to the week before.

BBC North West Tonight sports reporter Richard Askam says the campaign for the pools grabbed the media and the general public's attention: 'By using the 40th anniversary, I think it reminded people that it is still going and has become a bit of an institution.

'As a PR campaign, it was well-run and it was also quite easy getting access to the panel,' he adds.

Al Needham, who covered the event for monthly football magazine When Saturday Comes, says: 'With football, you're bombarded with PR stuff that usually ends up as one big plug and no real story.

'But this was different because there was something of value. The PR material was useful, particularly as the magazine is more interested in the history and nostalgia of the game - information that was initially provided.

'While I had to add to it, the PR team delivered the interviews and I got what I needed to write the piece,' he adds.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in