The change in management of the National Lottery has been a defining story of the British gambling space over the past year, but over at the society-focused Health Lottery, a different change in direction is also underway. 

Under the new leadership of Lebby Eyres, appointed as CEO of the lottery by parent company Northern & Shell Group last week, the Health Lottery is seeking an ambitious new path, whilst its new chief executive also embarks on a new career.

Setting the stage and telling the story

At the outset of Eyres discussion with SBC Media, the newly appointed CEO established one objective as being of paramount importance to the relaunch of the Health Lottery – clarity.

This relaunch is the number one priority for the firm as it progresses into 2023, with a key focus on connecting retail and online offerings, whilst clarifying its operations and aims to customers. 

“The main objective is first and foremost to focus on the relaunch of the health lottery, a new identity and a new strapline,” Eyres remarked.

“We want the offering to be much clearer to our customers, and we want to build on the foundations laid at the end of 2022 and use a more data-driven approach – that will be the first reiteration. 

“We have to look at what our rivals are doing and embrace the future online, that is our main priority in 2023. And making sure towards the back end of the year we’re dominating the conversation and showing people what we stand for, and know the good causes.”

Looking back on the recent National Lottery tender, funding for good causes was a significant talking point throughout the process, with legacy operator Camelot sometimes coming under fire in this area.

For Eyres, ensuring clarity around the Health Lottery’s funding activities for good causes will play a key role in how the lottery is perceived and how it engages with its customers.

“If you go to the Health Lottery website there is a lot of material available on good causes but you have to search for it,” she said.

“It’s not obvious to players coming in what the good causes that we are supporting are, and I want to make that much clearer to the players.

“Over the past 12 years, we’ve raised £120m and supported 3,000 charities through the Health Lottery, so we’ve done really good work.”

Applying her own approach to the Health Lottery’s executive leadership, Eyres hopes to leverage her background in content writing and management acquired through 14 years of freelance and editorial work across the Northern & Shell group’s publishing.

The new CEO explained that although to outsiders this sudden change in career direction may come as somewhat of a surprise, her background in editorial work at Richard Desmond’s media conglomerate has high relevance to her new lottery remit.

She continued: “I have always been drawn to human interest stories, such as working with Refuge on a domestic violence campaign, and we’ll be doing the same thing for the Health Lottery.

“We’ll be telling the stories of the charities we support and showing how people can get in touch and reassuring them that the money they are spending has a good purpose behind it.

“We need to put forward true and real-life stories. It’s important to engage readers and I know how to connect with audiences. At the moment the story is a little lost and we’ll be bringing them front and centre.”

The Health Lottery during a health crisis

In Eyres’ view, the story on how the Health Lottery operates and what it does is ‘a little lost’, and bringing it ‘front and centre’, as she put it, is the key priority for the business as part of its 2023 relaunch plans.

As well as leveraging editorial content on its website, where Eyres hopes to implement her experience in health writing and human interest stories from her N+S freelancing days, social media will also be a focal point.

The ultimate aim is to put across to customers what the Health Lottery does, which is to function as a vehicle mechanism through which funds are raised via lottery ticket sales, and grants subsequently distributed. 

Adopting a regional approach, the Health Lottery supports different charities across a different region of Great Britain each month, in which each region is invited to apply for a grant through the Lottery.

“We focus on small community projects, addressing costs of living, social isolation and making a real difference to small communities up and down the country,” Eyres explained.

“There are a large number of charities supported, we’re trying to get a spread from up and down the country. We have around 24 or 25 charities and are interviewing case studies from each one.”

Eyres’ assumption of Health Lottery executive leadership comes at a time not only of changes to the UK’s lottery landscape but also of economic and financial uncertainty, with the costs of living crisis dominating headlines.

With public health at the forefront of conversations around living costs, particularly as the NHS continues to recover from the heavy blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eyres explained that this could enable the Lottery to better engage with customers and explain its objectives.

“Health inequality can be a challenging concept for consumers to understand, but in recent years we saw in COVID how many disadvantaged sections of people were adversely affected,” she continued. 

“People have come to understand how health inequality affects everybody, and how the lack of good housing growing up can disadvantage them later in life, how schooling and education are affected – all of those are key to the charities we support.”

A new approach for a new era

Good causes was understandably a recurring topic throughout Eyres’ conversation with SBC Media, and as mentioned above, was also a defining talking point of the Fourth National Lottery licence contest.

Eyres herself noted that the creation of the National Lottery back in 1994 was a ‘transformational moment’ for British society, and three decades into operation, the public is used to lotteries as a ‘fun product that transforms people’s lives through good causes’.

“My sister was an Olympic athlete who competed in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and I had seen her struggle with no form of support… for me, it’s clear that lotteries can be beneficial and transformational,” she said.

Northern & Shell was of course at one point an interested party in the National Lottery licence contest, throwing its hat in the ring against then-licence holder Camelot and incoming steward Allwyn.

The significance of this change in National Lottery leadership was not lost on Eyres, but the Health Lottery CEO was keen to emphasise that both now and moving forward, the two are not direct competitors.

Eyres added: “The National Lottery and society lotteries are not competitors. It will be interesting for everyone to see what Allwyn can come up with in 2024 and what direction they take it. It’s unusual that there has been this familiarity between the NL and Camelot themselves, and it’s a big moment to have this transition. 

“But there is room for everybody, and to get everyone talking about lotteries will only be a good thing. It refreshes the lottery and the causes that can be funded in people’s minds.”

As it stands, both Eyres and Allwyn are taking the helm of their respective lotteries at a time of change for the sector, and UK gaming as a whole as the industry awaits the outcome of the government’s gambling act review.

One of the core focuses of the review has been the shift from retail gaming to online betting, and ensuring that regulation keeps up with this change – for Eyres, ensuring the Health Lottery keeps up is also a priority.

However, retail will continue to play a strong role in the company’s business model, she explained, and the firm has put resources into innovative products to bolster an omnichannel offering.

“We want to link up the retail and online customers. I think there are lots of innovations and exciting opportunities still presented by retail, and we will continue supporting successful stores, supermarket chains and big brands but also independent retailers as well. 

“We’ve got promotions coming up to celebrate Easter and celebrate the coronation which will be promoted both in retail and online. The important thing is to try and is to link up the try and link up retail online

“The more we move online the more important our presence in retail is, the same as with magazines and newspapers – the printed product supports the online product.”

Summarising her approach to leadership of the Health Lottery, Eyres is confident that a combination of retail and online offerings and leveraging of editorial experience will achieve the company’s primary goal – to expand its business and reach, and in turn, support the good causes it funds.