What it took to rebrand Powerball

We catch up with Tabcorp's head of brand for Lotteries to talk about the bold, transformative steps taken in the major brand refresh

Being bold and doing things differently have paid revenue and audience acquisition dividends for Tabcorp’s Lotteries team after launching one of the group’s largest brand refreshes in several years.

Tabcorp head of brand for lotteries, Ben Johnson, told CMO the decision to take a fresh approach to how Powerball was positioned in market was born out of the need to revitalise the brand to attract younger audiences.

“We’ve always been built around the essence of freedom, and giving someone the chance to live an extraordinary life,” he said. “Jackpot offers were great at the time of our launch - up to $50 million - and this helped us retain players. But what we found was it was mostly existing players. The campaign wasn’t good at attracting new audiences, which we needed in order to grow.”  

With social sentiment changing, it was also time to find a more relevant brand story to tell, Johnson said. He noted research agency, Colmar Brunton’s Millennium Monitor, for example, showed consumers moving towards an era of rebellion as trust in corporations and government plummets.

Working in partnership with Colmar Brunton, its media agency, Carat, and taking into account internal data sets on existing customers, the team devised three audiences: Retained, which consists of consumers 49 years old and above; growth, or those aged 25-49 years old; and churn, which included those who have played in the past but aren’t regular purchasers.

“We knew churn was a long-term game, so we parked that initially. It was also important with our retained audience to keep them in love with the brand. But the growth audience is the big opportunity for us – we want to make them fall in love with brand lotteries, and particularly Powerball,” Johnson said.

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

“But they have been hard to target in the past. That generally came down to relevance – we haven’t demonstrated relevance to those guys. Powerball’s existing campaign appealed to the retained audience but we hadn’t tapped into that growth audience.”  

A key insight the Lotteries team discovered via research was that people perceived Powerball as a big, prestigious brand. Yet its advertising was not reflecting that.

“We were talking about living an extraordinary life – instead of pizza night at home, they could be doing that in Rome. That wasn’t really resonating with people,” Johnson said. “The insight we drew on for our brand refresh was that winning Powerball wasn’t about what you could buy, but who you could be. People had this desire to be someone else but were constrained by social norms and financials means to do it. Inside of everyone was this version of themselves hoping to get out.”

It’s this that led to the new tagline, ‘play by your own rules’. The campaign creative itself centres on a power ‘ball’, where fictitious winners come together as an expression of who they were born to be. The playful creative includes those with peregrine falcons, biker chicks, people playing golf on the top of the stairs and more.

Debuting in May, the campaign initially involved heavy TV investment. Also in the mix are a 60-second cinema advertisement, along with extensive digital, social email, in-store and experiential activities.

“We worked with our agency, Y&R [now VML Y&R], to make sure we captured digital channels and how to best utilise these,” Johnson said. Creative saw online users interrupted in that journey by the Powerball ‘butler’, who pops up and brings the last part of the TVC to life.  

Powerball’s most recent execution was in February, in partnership with digital media brand, VICE, and saw it host ‘Australia’s biggest party’ in Sydney. The event was open to 600 people.

“The idea was to create an immersive activation where we could bring to life wildest dreams, so there was a donut wall, ball pit, illusion room and more,” Johnson said. “It was about showcasing the experience Powerball could provide.”

Through all of this, data has been hugely important, he continued. “There was a lot at stake and it was one of our largest brand launches in many years. We used internal data to understand who was already playing, then used Carat and Colmar Brunton to help inform who was sitting in those segments,” he said.

“Carat was instrumental in define audiences from a demographic point of view. Then we did a lot of qualitative research to overlay behavioural motivations around those segments.”

Disrupting the internal status quo

As well as being one of the biggest relaunches for the Lotteries team and Tabcorp in several years, the Powerball rebrand has also arguably been a transformational one for how teams work internally.

When Johnson first pitched to executives, timeline to launch was 10 months. However, executives asked for delivery in six months. “That was very challenging and we had far less time than we thought we had,” he said. “We had to create new ways of working, internally and with partners.”  

To do this, the marketing team borrowed Agile principles from Tabcorp’s technology function. For example, instead of a formal written brief, Johnson and the team used a lean canvas, putting all stakeholders in the room to create a brief together.

“We mapped out every week what tasks needed to be done week by week, until launch day. It was very clear. That’s the only way we could achieve that in that timeframe,” he said.  

There was also the merger of Tabcorp and Tatts Group  going on. Fortunately, Johnson said the Lotteries team remained pretty stable, with former COO, Sue van der Merwe, appointed MD of the division post-merger and teams left largely unchanged at that point in time. What Johnson said he did learn being exposed to Tabcorp’s business workings was more rigour around how to approach audiences.

“The most recent big brand launch was the Keno refresh, so some of the pace off the back of that was born out of learnings from our Tabcorp colleagues,” he said.  

In addition, given how unusual campaign and bold the campaign was, trust and a leap of faith from senior management was critical.

“There was a lot of work done with senior management to demonstrate why this was the way to go, giving evidence around consumer insights, research and audiences we conducted to back it up. It is remarkably different,” Johnson said.  

“It’s the first time we gave our creative agency such broad scope as well. We weren’t creating just another lotto ad. It needed to be completely different and differentiate Powerball. We had a few calls from them, double checking that’s what we had said. This challenged lot of people to think differently about lotteries.”  


And it worked. In its half-yearly report to 31 December 2018, Tabcorp highlighted the Lotteries and Keno division as one of its standout contributors, with revenue up 18 per cent year-on-year.

The retained audience is stronger than ever, Johnson said, with prompted awareness retained at 97 per cent. Powerball’s growth audience prompted awareness also lifted from 62 per cent to 83 per cent.

“People who have played in the last three months have grown from 23 to 33 per cent,” Johnson said. Brand metrics have also remained consistent post-Powerball’s biannual $100 million jackpots.

“Three months after we launched last May, we delivered a $100m jackpot, and the number of new customers acquired was extraordinary. Only could come from increase brand awareness off the brand launch,” he said.

What’s more, tracking shows consumers in the growth audience segment are seeing rebellion and adventure as key take-outs from the campaign.

Having now been in market for about 12 months, Johnson said campaign material will get a refresh shortly in-market. In the meantime, the team is looking at Oz Lotto and dialling up the ‘fun’ aspect.

Another recent refresh kicked off on the ‘Set for life’ product aimed at being more impactful in terms what that lottery represents. The product has a number of unique features, such as a seven-day draw period, and sees consumers win $20,000 per month for 20 years.

“It’s been a great few years for lotteries, and we’ve been able to successfully separate the brands to have their own space,” Johnson said. “The problem in the past were that brand campaigns were similar and customers found it hard to differentiate them.”  

And as the campaigns develop, Johnson said teams are working a lot more collaboratively.

“We are in middle of planning for FY20 and we are out of the habit of just writing briefs, we see partners as integral in that journey, involved in all strategic planning sessions,” he said.  “For example, we have dozens of campaigns for Instant Scratch-Its, plus Monopoly in the market at the moment. And we’ve used a similar process to what we pioneered with Powerball – all stakeholders in the room, create and agree on brief and timelines to deliver.”  

Check out more of our case studies of brand refreshes and the keys to success:

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