LUDA: The Nebraska Lottery has sponsored the Lincoln Ultimate Disc Association since our very first season in Fall of 2008. Why has the Lottery chosen to support LUDA for so long?
Brian Rockey: When we first started our relationship, one of the first things we talked about was how the Lottery looks for new audiences that we can engage for a number of reasons. One is that it's a busy market, and our core customers have a lot of messages bombarding them all the time, so anything that we can do to put our message out into different channels is a good thing. The other part is, of course, one of the audiences that we hope to reach more frequently is the people between 19 and 29. We refer to that as the "emerging market." I know I couldn't run around and probably compete with you folks, but I'm guessing that a lot of your participants are closer to that 19-29 range. And I think there are some affinities, just in terms of general interest with your participants and the Lottery from the standpoint of being interested in our beneficiary programs and that sort of thing, so we thought it was a good fit. We appreciate the treatment of our brand and getting us in front of people.
LUDA: I know our players have appreciated it from the very beginning as well. They always thought it was really cool to get a sponsor on board, especially someone involved in the community and looking out for our interests as well.
What other community efforts does the Lottery support?
BR: The year before we started working with LUDA, maybe two years, we started working with Psycowpath Mountain Bike Racing, and then of course the more traditional sports sponsorships are the University of Nebraska. We also do some work with Nebraska Wesleyan and UNO. It's not uncommon for a charitable organization trying to raise money for some particular cause, whether it's the non-profit arm of a long term care facility, or a group that wants to provide scholarships for high school students. If they stage a golf event or something, we try to participate and offer pin prizes or sponsor a hole. The reason we do that, and coming back to LUDA in particular, is we want to put a face on the Lottery for people beyond just what they see at retail. We are a public business, we are a statewide business, we have retailers everywhere. But because it is such a busy world and there are so many messages, unless we or any other brand can find a way to personalize ourselves, it's a little harder to reach people early on, so that's one of the real values of working with programs like LUDA.
LUDA: Do you have any personal background in athletics or community organizations?
BR: I do. Of course in high school, I grew up in a small town so everybody did: football, wrestling, track, golf, those kinds of things. You know, it's funny, in high school, after wrestling and all the running we had to do, I never wanted to run anymore. Then when I was at Creighton a hundred years ago, I get into running just as something that I could do. More recently, the last four years, I've been training in Shotokan Karate, and I love that. My son, who is thirteen, did it five years, and I would go to the dojo and watch and decided that I'd like to try that. Community-wise, I'm involved in our church, and I've been involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters in the past, I was on the Board for a long time and was paired a couple of times. My son is involved in Boy Scouts right now.
LUDA: We'll have to get him involved in Youth Ultimate when he gets to high school!
BR: Yeah! I think something like LUDA would be good for him.
LUDA: What would you like to see happen with organizations such as LUDA in the future as we continue to grow and reach out into the community?
BR: Well, I think the operative word there is "grow." One of our common interests, obviously is you want more participants, and the more participants you have, then that's a larger audience for us, or any sponsor you work with, and that's a great thing. It's nice too for the Lottery to be able to help an organization find its beginnings or find its legs, if you will, and build itself up. When the Lottery first started 18 years ago, it was something completely different; it's not a traditional government role. It is a gaming activity, and not everybody was comfortable with that. Most people were, because they voted for it, but it took a while to get general acceptance. As it has grown in sales and publicity, the types of games that we offer, the number of winners, and the amount of money that we raise for our beneficiary programs, it has, over the last several years, become more recognized as a corporate citizen, and opportunities to engage in sponsorships have come along more regularly than they used to. That's something that we appreciate because we feel like we are a good promotional partner, and we like the opportunity to help organizations meet their goals. And as I mentioned, we do appreciate the treatment that our brand has received from you and your receptiveness to having our street team come, and when we worked with the retailer a couple of years ago with sample cards – the retailer really liked that. That's another nice piece that we can bring to the table, particularly for our retailers. Anything that we can do to drive traffic to them and build awareness of their locations is a good thing.
LUDA: You mentioned beneficiaries a few times, and it is well known that a lot of the Lottery's proceeds go to schools. What else does the Lottery money support?
BR: 25% of everything that is spent goes to our beneficiaries. The Nebraska Environmental Trust is the largest single beneficiary. The percentages get complicated, but they get 44.5% of everything that we raise. They fund conservation programs, tree replanting, habitat preservation, recycling, parks here in Lincoln. For example, Holmes Lake when they did all that work out there a few years ago, they got a lot of money for that from the Environmental Trust. Pioneers Park, you name it, Parks and Rec are a big thing. On the education side, education in general gets 44.5% of the proceeds, and that's partitioned by the legislature then a little further. Part of it goes to the Nebraska Opportunity Grant Fund, which is a need-based college scholarship program. That's through the Post-Secondary Education Coordinating Commission in the different colleges' and universities' financial aid offices. They make ten or fifteen thousand grants per year to students all over the state. The other chunk of education money goes to the Department of Education, and they use it for the Education Innovation Fund. The uses vary every couple of years, most recently it's gone to help school districts upgrade their technology. A lot of schools have computers and what-not obviously, but in recent years, connectivity to the Internet has become more of an issue as the Internet has expanded and grown and speeds have increased, so they are helping schools to work through that. The State Fair gets 10%, and it takes a lot of money to stage a big event like that. That's an interesting thing because it's a statewide gathering of talents and skills, people with lots of different interests. We like supporting that. Liking to eat stuff on a stick helps too.
LUDA: That's always fun.
So, what is your hope or vision for the Nebraska Lottery in the future?
BR: We have been very fortunate to have eight consecutive years of sales growth. Not every lottery has been able to do that; there are 44 lotteries in the United States now, and we want to be able to continue to do that. The obvious reason is that our mission is to raise money for the beneficiary programs, so the more we sell, the more we can generally raise. In order to grow sales, we need to diversify our offerings, look at new promotions, expand our retail network, reach out to new audiences, and broadening the audiences we've got. Relating it back to LUDA, the fact that the organization is growing is a good thing because that gives us more people we can associate with and maybe develop an affinity for. The Lottery is certainly not for everyone, but even if somebody doesn't play, the fact that they maybe know that we provide money for the environment is a good thing. And if nothing else, they may remember that and say: "Oh I know there's money out there for environmental projects; I'm involved with a group that needs money for an environmental project." So, anything that we can do to build awareness is a good thing. It's a gain all across the board. We'll just continue to try to grow our offerings and services as best we can.
LUDA: Great! Thanks a lot for taking the time to share with us, and for your continued support of LUDA!
BR: Yeah, thank you!