As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, The Georgia Lottery Corporation (GLC) was several months into the launch of a new player-acquisition marketing campaign for its eInstants brand, Diggi Games. The strength of the GLC’s forward-looking digital strategy and marketing proved central in helping to protect critical returns to the state’s beneficiaries. With many retailers closed and stay-at-home orders in effect, the ads on social media and prime-time broadcast channels attracted an increase in online play across all demographics, providing light entertainment not only for regular players but also many who were not previously aware of Georgia’s iLottery program.

The GLC saw 250% YOY sales growth for iLottery at the peak of the pandemic, on top of 50% YOY growth for the first months of the campaign pre-Covid. In addition, the average age of digital players shifted from the start of the campaign in January as more players between 18 to 35 engaged with the GLC’s online and mobile platform.

The Diggi Games Campaign

One of the first lotteries in the U.S. to offer interactive play nearly a decade ago, the GLC has recently been laser-focused on fulfilling the promise of a digital, mobile-first operation. The mobile channel now represents 80% of all iLottery sales in the state. Having achieved an average iLottery annual growth rate over the past three years of +40%, the Lottery and IGT agreed at the end of 2019 to upgrade the digital platform and increase investment in the iLottery marketing program and player promotions.

By early 2020, the GLC was ramping up player acquisition with a “Play Anywhere, Play Anytime” campaign. Television and radio spots, created by the GLC’s marketing department and BBDO, and paid ads on Facebook all showcased the large library of Diggi Games available. “The goal was to build awareness among known lottery players first, because they were familiar with the Lottery, while reaching new players who enjoyed playing other types of online games,” said Andrea Williams, IGT Senior Manager PlayLottery Marketing. Drawing on prior experience leading online retail efforts for consumer brands such as Home Depot, Carter’s, and others, Williams and her team from IGT provide on-site support for the GLC’s digital channel, working collaboratively with the Lottery to formulate and execute the strategy, creative, implementation, timing, and analytics related to iLottery marketing.

As a unique marketing feature of digital lottery games, players in Georgia can try Diggi Games before they buy. Importantly, the GLC has been optimizing its game portfolio, and its free play option offers the same odds as paid play, supporting conversion because players know exactly what they will get, and will not be disappointed. The GLC has also excelled at making a variety of games available in a one-stop shop. “Having the full draw-game portfolio available to purchase along with eInstants balances the profitability of the digital channel,” said Karri Paavilainen, IGT Senior Director PlayLottery Marketing. “The combination of new exciting styles of eInstants and adding additional draw-based games can improve overall lottery revenues.”

Awareness Goes Both Ways

Williams’s team engages players through frequent email and social media communications, keeping them informed on everything from new game launches to promotions. Prior to the new campaign, the team had also done extensive testing with the digital platforms to gauge what would be intriguing for potential new online players. They discovered that the eInstant games created by IGT based on titles that the Lottery sells in-store were popular, as players had familiarity with the games.

“I love this space because we know our players and what they like, and we’re able to create and market more content based on the data,” said Williams. “For a game launch, we send about 500,000 emails, and we can see instantly how that converts to play at a very granular level, seeing a player’s journey from when they first register and sign-on to what their first game play is and what their flow looks like over the next month. Do they still play the first game they played or switch over to something else? Is there a price point they like? We can also take real-time data learnings from a hit game like Ruby 7s and go back to IGT’s development studios and say, ‘This game just broke sales records and the players love it. Can you create more games like this?’” by adding bonus rounds, additional spins, and other popular features.

When Preparation Meets Unexpected Events

With the onset of the pandemic, the new campaign—and particularly the paid ads on Facebook—led to additional awareness and activity. “Previously, Google search had been the primary way players found the Georgia Lottery site,” explained Williams. “Our new advertising for Diggi Games was able to top Google referrals to the site because it built on the fact that many people were at home on Facebook, seeing the ads and clicking through to register and play.”

With sales now consistently over $5 million per week and record 70%+ YOY growth for lottery in FY2020, Georgia still has plans to grow the digital channel. To support and sustain high growth, the Lottery and IGT are upgrading the technology with the new IGT PlayCommand platform and its expanded functionality, and IGT is adding staff to the iLottery marketing team, all to help respond to the opportunities of 2020 and beyond.

“It’s rewarding to see the incredible success our customer has achieved,” said Enrico Drago, SVP IGT PlayDigital. “With the ongoing difficulties lotteries face due to the pandemic, I hope others are watching what Georgia has accomplished and can embrace iLottery as the wave of the future.”

“At a challenging time, we’re really excited to reach and welcome so many new players to our Diggi Games offering, and the play has helped us continue to support our good causes,” said Gretchen Corbin, President and CEO, Georgia Lottery Corporation. “We know people will continue to play at retail, but we’ve received great feedback and expect our digital channel to continue to grow. Some have said, ‘I’m so glad we were able to play.’ Or, ‘I’m not a big lottery player, but my kids benefitted from the HOPE Scholarship, so I feel like I’m contributing to a greater cause.’”

Download the Georgia Lottery app and test-drive the games in “try mode” at galottery.com.