Here are the other winners in the $1.6 billion Powerball lottery…
The Powerball may have made at least three people rich beyond their wildest dreams, but it also provided a window of opportunity for a surprisingly diverse array of companies to sell their wares.
Move over Donald Trump, there’s a new ratings juggernaut in town: As members of the news media—MarketWatch included—dissected every possible angle of the $ 1.6 billion Powerball lottery and convenience stores do bumper business in ticket (and other) sales from people with dollar signs in their eyes, other even more tangentially related industries are hitching their cart to the lottery’s wagon. A wide range of companies are capitalizing on the Powerball craze by vigorously pitching their services to everyone from the winners to the multitude of losers—and even to those who may now be addicted to gambling. For them, the lottery is a publicity win-win.
Financial advisers are offering advice to the would-be winners—and even some to the losers, clearly a bigger market—but other companies want in on the action too. It’s the perfect moment to insert their brand into the biggest story in town. And they’re not pretending that you even had a chance of winning (given the odds are 1 in 292 million). “Let’s face it, you’re probably not going to win,” wrote one publicist for an online lender that targets borrowers with low credit scores before the draw. And you’ll still have a cloud of personal debt hanging over your head. But with just a couple clicks, you could receive cash in your checking account in just a day or two at a competitive rate.”
This cottage industry surrounding the Powerball is a problem for some. “We are turning our own widening financial inequality into a form of entertainment bordering on mass hysteria,” says Aram Sinnreich, communications professor at American University. “How ironic that the only genuine revenue opportunity from the lottery is the earned media that comes from having free promotion associated with your association with the story.” It’s a giant fantasy for the middle classes, who have lost nearly 40% of their wealth over the last four decades. “The gap between rich and poor has grown and the only way out of the middle classes financial dire straits is an act of God,” he adds.
A wide range of companies are capitalizing on the Powerball craze by vigorously pitching their services to everyone from the three winners to the multitude of losers
Offering money management advice—even if that advice only applies to the winners—is an obvious marketing strategy. Chubb Insurance offered MarketWatch unsolicited tips on how to make sure you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to lawsuits if you become a billionaire, even though few readers will need this particular advice. “If you have $ 1.6 billion you should have really, really good liability insurance,” Christie Alderman, vice president of client product & service manager at Chubb Insurance CB, -1.48% told MarketWatch. “The combination of wealth and publicity makes you a target.” (While in this instance there are currently only three people for whom this advice would apply, Alderman says that any wealthy person should take these precautions on board.)
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Powerball fever also offers some professionals a chance to try to ease the pain of the millions of Americans who had to show up for work on Thursday morning because they didn’t win. Michael Thiemann, co-founder and chief executive at Zebit, an online financial planning tool, sees a potential market here. “You aren’t the Powerball winner,” he says in his pitch. “Apologies if your name is Jones, but the Joneses are lousy role models. It seems that trying to keep up with them has wrecked more budgets than any other personal finance mistake.” So far, so depressing? That’s where Zebit comes in: “It takes the headache out of financing life expenses—from buying a new refrigerator when it breaks to financing a new TV with no interest.”
And two weeks of Powerball headlines may have proven challenging for those with a gambling problem. As the jackpot grew, so did the temptation for gambling addicts—and, yes, the opportunity for addiction centers to advertise their services. “It’s triggering,” says Deborah Smith, a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based gambling addiction counselor at Sunspire Health Recovery Road, a for-profit addiction center that also contacted MarketWatch. “It’s on TV, it’s on the radio, and grocery stores have signs saying, ‘Go to this aisle to get your Powerball tickets. Everybody’s talking about it. The gambler is caught in the middle of it. He can’t get away from it.” (It costs $ 18,500 for 30 days at Sunspire, although it also accepts major health insurers.)
In this election year, few (if any) politicians used the frenzy surrounding the lottery as a springboard to talk about a struggling middle class, Sinnreich says. On the contrary, politicians on both the right and left of the political spectrum told the Huffington Post how they would spend their Powerball winnings. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., Va.) said, “I don’t run for president.” (He has not announced plans to run.) Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.) added, “Am I going to leave it to my children or give it away? I’m going to give it away.” Others said they would give it charity. Unlike corporate America, politicians missed the opportunity to sell their message to the public, Sinnreich adds. “The Powerball is a spectacle. Its sole function is to provide a glimmer of hope, while certfiying that none exists.”
Read: Why the $ 1.5 billion Powerball is everything that’s wrong with America