Lottery Merchandise and Brand Partnerships


A competition in which numbered tickets are sold for the chance to win a prize based on luck or skill. Lotteries are sometimes used to raise funds for state or local purposes, such as subsidized housing units or kindergarten placements. In the United States, many states offer lottery games to raise money for public and private projects.

Lottery officials are largely unable to communicate the specific benefits of their product, so they must rely on other messages to attract players. One message is that the lottery is a fun experience, especially when people scratch a ticket. Another is that people should feel good about playing because they are doing their civic duty by supporting the state. But this last message obscures the regressivity of lottery spending and distracts from the fact that most winners go bankrupt within a few years.

In addition to these traditional messages, lottery officials promote their products by merchandising with well-known brand names. For example, lottery officials often offer “scratch” games with famous brands such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Nike sneakers. These promotions are lucrative for both lottery officials and the brands they partner with, because the prizes draw attention to the brand and increase sales.

I’ve talked to lottery players, people who play for decades and spend $50 or $100 a week on tickets. These people defy the expectations that you might have going into a conversation about their irrational gambling behavior, because they’re clear-eyed about the odds. They know that their chances of winning are long and they’ve come to the logical conclusion that for better or worse, this is their only chance at a new life.