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The Football Pools: 99 years and counting

By - 26 May 2022

In February 1923, The Football Pool, then known as the Littlewood Football Pool, distributed its first coupons outside Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground.

The traditional and most popular game was the Treble Chance, now branded the Classic Pools game. Players pick 10, 11 or 12 football games from the offered fixtures to finish as a draw, in which each team scores at least one goal.

The player with the most accurate predictions wins the top prize, or a share of it if more than one player has these predictions.

Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters were the largest pools companies. Brought together in 2007 by Sportech under the brand ‘The New Football Pools’, now known as ‘The Football Pools’, offers small stake, high prize games including Premier 10 and Jackpot 12. In 2017, The Football Pools was sold to OpCapita, a private equity company, for £83m.

Now approaching its centenary, Mark McGuiness, Head of Digital Marketing and Casino at the UK-based online sportsbook and casino operator, details how The Pools is using its brand power to acquire and retain players whilst evolving its offering to keep pace with the industry.

Is The Football Pools brand still as popular now as it was in its heyday?

Popularity always ebbs and flows and it is just part of operating a brand in any industry or market. However, The Football Pools and The Pools brands remain hugely popular for those looking for big wins from small stakes.

The Football Pools was actually the forerunner to the National Lottery and to this day we have a large player base from this demographic but by updating our offering and ensuring we meet and exceed modern player preferences we have been able to reach other audiences and this in turn has ensured both brands continue to be popular.

How have you ensured The Football Pools remains relevant? Can you explain the difference between The Football Pools and The Pools?

The Football Pools offers our traditional portfolio of jackpot games, such as the football-based score draws game of Classic Pools where players are in with the chance of scooping the £3m top prize.

Customers can play-as-you go or subscribe so that they never miss the opportunity of playing their favourite numbers. The Pools is home to our Pools Games, sportsbook and casino, and, in the not-too-distant future, all products will be available on one single brand destination at ThePools.com.

Are classic Pools Games popular with online players?

Classic Pools has a growing audience of digital or online players. We see two general player types, those that analyse Head-2-Head statistics on previous football matches in order to identify matches that may result in a score draw, and other players that prefer using their favourite numbers as the means to select possible matches that may end in the score draw result.

The main challenge like every digital e-commerce business is making sure the game interface is fast, intuitive and of course mobile friendly. That’s why we have two versions of the game presentation, one being just selecting numbers and the other the detailed H-2-H game fixture view. We are always improving our game UI and have plans to introduce improvements and gamification in the coming months.

How have you maintained a sense of community online? Is this still important?

Absolutely! We have a loyal social media following on Facebook and Twitter as The Football Pools has always had that social connection; back in the early days, collectors would visit customers in their homes to collect their entries for that particular game round.

Even with the advent of social media, customers still want inclusion as it is a natural part of being human. And with our game leaderboards, which were introduced way before ‘social’ was born, we have always understood that customers wish to compete, to learn and to improve. Leaderboards provide a means to visualise those emotional requirements and participation within the game.

Who is your main target audience? Can a brand be all things to all people or is it better to have a niche and deliver the best possible experience to that audience?

That is an interesting question. The key is audience relevancy; customers are very fickle as they have so much more choice than 30 or 40 years ago. Our main target audience is customers who wish to enjoy a small stake with the chance of a medium to big jackpot prize in a socially responsible manner.

Taking care of customers is an important ethos of The Pools as we have many customers that have been with us for more than 40 years. For us, customer care and customer experiences are just as and indeed sometimes more important than offering whizz bang innovation.

Will The Pools still be here in another 100 years time? How does the brand stay relevant?

I think it is fair to say that we are living in uncharted waters at the moment, and no one for sure really knows what the future holds. For The Pools, our vision is to do the best we can by offering uncompromised service, holding true to our values and being kind to one another.

It is an ethos and an approach that we have been committed to since 1923 and so long as we stand by it, I see no reason why The Pools won’t be here to celebrate its 200th birthday.

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