Iowa Lottery Finds Retail Success In Partnership With Hawkeye Athletics

One of the concerns raised about the growth of sports betting in the US is the influence it has on college athletics.

While some locations ban wagers on in-state college teams, others don’t allow for prop betting on college athletes.

The Iowa Lottery has managed to curtail some of those concerns around its lottery options. Over the last year, it released a pair of instant scratch tickets with the Iowa Hawkeye branding.

The partnership between the university and the state lottery shows how the two worlds can toe the line on a sensitive issue.

Could it lead to future agreements between universities and state lotteries? Perhaps it won’t be long before we see more top college mascot labels on instant tickets or lottery draw games.

Iowa “black ticket” amasses over 3 million sales

The relationship between the Iowa Lottery and Iowa University began in 2019.

Back then, the lottery ran second-chance promotions for the opportunity to gain access to Iowa football games and other benefits. The Iowa Lottery then advanced to a $10 instant ticket that incorporated Iowa University prizes, but didn’t feature the school branding.

However, things took a big leap forward prior to the football season. The lottery secured a deal to use the Iowa Hawkeye logo with a $5 scratch-off ticket.

Simply called “IOWA” or referred to as “the black ticket,” this partnership was a first of its kind between a state lottery and a major university.

Done through Pollard Banknote, the game featured a $50,000 top prize, but also included rewards with tickets to Iowa football home games. There were also drawings from the game to get access to the Ironman Suite at Kinnick Stadium.

The ticket has done over 3.1 million in sales overall. That lands it as a top-10 all-time selling ticket for the state of Iowa.

Kassandra Trenary, Director of Marketing and Advertising for the Iowa Lottery, discussed the success of the game during La Fleur’s 2024 Raleigh Conference:

“When you think about having a $10 ticket as engineer mechanism in prior years, then moving to a $5 ticket and still outpacing the sales over the last three years, it just goes to show what those relationships and tickets can build.”

12-week promotion drives up lottery analytics

Driving the success of the ticket was an aggressive marketing campaign that also utilized Iowa athletics.

A 12-week promotion called “Kickoff to Kinnick” was conducted prior to the start of the football season. It ran across social media, digital TV, cable, audio formats, and more.

The promo featured the voice of Iowa football, Gary Dolphin.

Over the 12 weeks, the promotion created 25 million impressions, with nearly 30,000 online clicks, as well.

The Iowa Lottery also saw a lot of return on its investment for little spending.

It had a 368% return on its ad spend through the promotion. The cost per entry was $14.37, and the cost per new member acquired was $174.30.

The promo outperformed key performance indicators by more than 30%.

Overall, the Iowa Lottery generated 3% growth in new members and a 22% decrease in cost per acquisition through “Kickoff to Kinnick.”

Iowa Lottery adds second ticket during basketball season

Seeing the success of the black ticket with football season, the Iowa Lottery planned ahead for the start of basketball.

Knowing the 2023-24 campaign would be a monumental one with Caitlin Clark playing her senior season for Iowa women’s basketball, the state lottery added a second game.

The gold ticket” was released in the winter and was sold alongside its fellow black ticket.

As part of the promotions for the new $5 game, it gave away access to the Iowa Lottery Terrace inside Carver Arena, home of Iowa basketball games.

This private suite featured exclusive waitstaff service for games like those involving Clark, which were a very hot ticket.

The Iowa Lottery was also promoted throughout the arena with signage. The lotto game itself was visible throughout as well, with its $50,000 top prize.

Iowa does have an age limit of 21 years old to play its state lottery. Despite that, this type of gambling partnership doesn’t lead to harassment of the athletes over performance issues. It also wouldn’t tempt athletes to impact an outcome, as the scratch games aren’t relevant to athletics themselves.

Given that, Trenary says making this partnership come together is a real accomplishment:

“With all the culturally relevant college athletes and sports gambling, they don’t typically go together. So, this is a large feat and we really worked hard to launch the tickets.”

The Iowa Lottery and Iowa University plan to continue their partnership for the upcoming season.


Photo by Charlie Neibergall / AP

About the Author

Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis

Lead Writer
A member of Catena Media since 2020, Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer at PlayiLottery, where he handles coverage of the online and retail lottery industry in the US. He previously spearheaded news content at PlayMichigan, where he covered one of the most prominent online lottery industries in the US — among the many other aspects of Michigan's sprawling iGaming market. You can email him at [email protected].
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