OPINION Lottery image dogged by 'dodgy' winners

During my several enjoyable years leading an agency team retained by Camelot to publicise the National Lottery, one constant unresolved comms challenge for my client was its jackpot winners.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

'Show me the winners' is the sensible PR mantra of any prize-driven brand. The National Lottery, with its random allocation of life-changing fortunes, needs to keep convincing its players that dreams do come true and that someone does walk away with the cash.

The key message of every winner's story remains 'it could be you' - even though the jackpot odds are unalterably set at approximately 13 million to one.

And yet for Camelot, this publicity imperative causes frustration and anguish, as the majority of players opt for no publicity in the event of winning a fortune.

Then there is the anguish caused by many winners who do opt for publicity. All too often the glare of tabloid exposure reveals garishly colourful and sometimes criminal lives that appear starkly at odds with brand values. the lottery, after all, is keen to be viewed as a national institution that munificently benefits myriad good causes.

Its dilemma surfaced again last week when it was revealed that the latest £2.6m jackpot winner had a conviction for underage sex. (Other previous winners have included a rapist, armed robbers and a wide cross-section of criminals.)

The comms dilemma is rooted in a reluctance by the lottery and its stakeholders to accept that its entire brand offering is funded by gambling. Indeed, it relies on the most random form of numbers game known to man. Superstition aside, there is no element of human insight or knowledge that can predict the roll of the balls.

Winners are dependent simply on the random geometry of chance. Chance is entirely democratic in that it respects no morality, class or judgement and the lottery, just as much as any casino, knows this. Rapists, perverts, dukes and dustmen all stand equal in the eyes of chance and the lottery should embrace this fact in all its comms.

Furthermore, its PROs could effectively brief that the public perception of a jackpot winner's profile is skewed because most players who live sensible lives will opt for no publicity. Hence those known to the public look more outlandish simply because they are not part of a representative sample.

A simpler approach to its 'dodgy' winners would involve a subtle shift in the National Lottery's position that playing is socially responsible fun rather than gambling. Some might also find that a refreshingly honest PR approach.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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