Investigating the Roles of Gambling Interest and Impulsive Sensation Seeking on Consumer Enjoyment of Promotional Games

Article excerpt

Promotional games are an increasingly utilized form of sales promotion; yet, few studies exist in this area. Some research suggests that promotional game participants may be similar to gamblers in terms of lifestyles and personality traits, such as sensation seeking. The current study extends existing research on this topic, by utilizing a telephone survey of randomly selected adults from two major cities in the U.S. (N=555), to examine this notion. Results support the similarity between promotional game participants and gamblers. Respondents' race, gambling interest levels, variety of gambling activities and sensation seeking are all found to be associated with liking to participate in promotional games.

According to the 20th Annual Survey of Promotional Practices, consumer promotions accounted for around 24% of manufacturers' marketing budgets, not including the additional money allocated to advertising budgets for leveraging such promotions ("Promotion Practices Condensed", Potentials, November 1998). In recent years, one of the most popular forms of consumer promotions has been what Ward and Hill (1991) have termed promotional games, where companies use contests or sweepstakes to help them reach their marketing objectives. Promotional games are often expensive, as it has become increasingly common for marketers to offer consumers a chance to win up to a million dollars, to help draw attention to their brands (Mogelefsky, 2000). Despite the growing use of promotional games, however, they have not received much attention in the consumer behavior literature; consequently, little is known about the psychology involved (Ward & Hill). Based on existing research, the current study employs a telephone survey of randomly selected adults (N = 555) to investigate the relationship between respondents' demographics, lifestyles and personalities and reported enjoyment of participating in promotional games. More specifically, it focuses on gambling interest and related activities, as well as the trait of sensation seeking, as it has been suggested that such factors might be part of the profile of promotional game participants (Browne, Kaldenberg & Brown, 1993; Ward & Hill).


Ward and Hill (1991, p. 70) have defined promotional games as opportunities for consumers to win a prize through luck or skill. They further delineated this marketing strategy into the categories of sweepstakes (games of chance) or contests (games of skill). Companies employ promotional games to help them build brand awareness, to influence customer behavior and to obtain market research (Schmidt, 2000). According to a recent study sponsored by Incentive magazine, promotional games were one of the most popular promotion strategies with 54% of marketers surveyed (Wood, 1998). The popularity of this form of sales promotion is further evidenced by the growing sales of scratch cards for use in marketing campaigns, as these figures rose from 50,000 cards sold in 1993 to over 5 million units sold in 1999 (Schmidt).

Although promotional games are currently very popular with marketers, this is hardly a novel promotional strategy. Ewen (1972) has noted that medieval Italian shopkeepers were among the first to use lottery-type games of chance to help attract customers (in Kopp & Taylor, 1994). Moreover, Kopp and Taylor have suggested that consumer-oriented prize promotions and forms of legalized gambling (such as lotteries) have coevolved in the marketplace over the past 300 years. Given the similarities between some promotional games and certain types of gambling, in terms of structure and outcome, they often served as substitutes for one another, as legal restrictions on one or the other fluctuated over time as a function of changing social attitudes and government regulation. The evolutionary course outlined above may have helped to blur the lines between promotional games and gambling, as their regulation (and subsequent scarcity) may have actually led to both activities becoming more popular with consumers (Kopp & Taylor). …


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