State trying to rebrand the Florida Lottery

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Lottery is not aging gracefully.

Voters enthusiastically approved state-run gambling 25 years ago, but the Lottery is struggling to keep up with today's demands.

Sales are lagging. Its approach to online media is sluggish. And other forms of gambling, such as Indian-run casinos and Internet cafes, are luring customers away from lucky numbers and scratchoffs.

State officials are well aware of the shortcomings.

Gov. Rick Scott's choice to lead the agency is a branding expert with big plans to yank the Lottery from its midlife crisis and drive up sales.

"We're going to look at everything we do and see how we can give it a brand refresh," said Cynthia O'Connell, widow of University of Florida President Stephen C. O'Connell and a former UF trustee.

Not even the iconic but vintage flamingo logo will escape scrutiny.

Starting this fall, the agency will launch several projects to refresh the interest of loyal customers and reach the 18-and-older demographic.

Ticket sales for the fiscal year ending June 30 inched over $4 billion for the first time in four years. Still, sales are down by 4 percent since 2007-08.

If O'Connell's plan works, that will mean more money for Bright Futures scholarships and K-12 classrooms — public education initiatives the Lottery is mandated to "enhance" from gambling sales.

"Our player base is … they're not getting any younger," she said. "We want to make sure that we have a strong and vibrant player base."

The Lottery has contributed $22 billion to public education since its inception. Contributions from the latest fiscal year totaled just over $1 billion, strong but millions of dollars behind pre-recession years.

O'Connell oversaw Lottery research and promotions during its early years, from 1987 to 1991. She launched several games that are still around, including Florida Lotto, Fantasy 5, Play 4, Cash 3 and scratchoffs.

One of her priorities is a redesign of Flalottery.com. The site attracts 3.3 million visitors a month but looks outdated. Work should begin in late August after a vendor is selected.

The desired result? A page that's easier for users to navigate and staffers to update.

The Lottery will move on to uncharted territory: the realm of social media.

There's no official Lottery Facebook or Twitter account. One user started a Lottery page "to update the Facebook community with the winning numbers." There are several more like it.

"It's fair to say that we're behind the times on social media, but that will be changed," said David Bishop, deputy secretary for brand management, a new Lottery role. "We'll be on Twitter, we'll be on Facebook, we'll be on emerging social platforms that allow us to not only reach our customers but our future customers."

That includes a cell phone application, too, he said.

Other plans in the works include a VIP loyalty club to reward frequent players. The agency will tap its list of voluntary users who receive updates via e-mail or text message and send them previews of new games and promotions.

Borrowing ideas from the country's 43 other lotteries is part of the reboot plan. The idea for the loyalty club, for example, came from Arkansas.

Not that other states don't borrow from Florida. The lottery ranked third in national sales this year, trailing only New York and Massachusetts.

But change is necessary, said Jeff Anderson, Idaho Lottery executive director and president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

"We are a consumer product," Anderson said, "and you don't see McDonald's doing the same advertising campaign with the same tag line and themes as they were 10 years ago."

Katie Sanders can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or ksanders@sptimes.com.

>>Fast Facts

Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell hopes these changes will result in increased ticket sales:

• Redesigning Flalottery.com so its easier to find information and update

• Launching social media accounts to drive website traffic and connect with younger players

• Starting a VIP loyalty club to reward frequent players with sneak peaks and promotions

State trying to rebrand the Florida Lottery 08/01/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 1, 2011 10:53pm]

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