El Gordo Could Offer the World’s Biggest Lottery Prizes this Christmas

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The countdown has begun: in about five weeks, Spain will hold its famous Christmas lottery.

Selae, Spain’s state gambling agency, is preparing for Christmas. Santa will bring a few lucky winners a lot of money this year, because the lottery operator is giving away up to EUR2.24 billion in this year’s Lotería de Navidad, an event popularly known as El Gordo (meaning “the Fat One”).

If all tickets get sold, the Christmas lottery draw in Spain will enter gambling history by offering the world’s most generous prize payout. The winners will be decided on December 22, giving the lucky ones enough time to enjoy a very special holiday shopping session.

EUR840,000 for lottery ads

For a single series in 2013, the prize structure was the following:

• El Gordo (First Prize) – EUR4,000,000
• Second Prize – EUR1,250,000
• Third Prize – EUR500,000
• Two Fourth Prizes – EUR200,000 each
• Eight Fifth Prizes – EUR60,000 each

With such an important event approaching, the state agency hired advertising firm Leo Burnett to create a commercial advertizing this year’s edition of the Christmas lottery. According to Selae president Inmaculada García Martínez, the company was paid EUR840,000 for its services, which include a series of creative spots built around the slogan “El mayor premio es compartirlo” (The best prize is sharing it).

Each ad shows ordinary people who share their moving stories on how the lottery has helped change their lives. For example, the main advert features a man who practically bursts in tears after he forgets to buy his usual lottery ticket at the local bar, only to find out that exact number wins the top prize that year.

According to recent gambling news, the other spots are either connected to the bar story or follow a similar emotional storyline, such as a woman finding a folder belonging to her deceased parents, revealing what they had planned to do if they ever won the lottery, or a couple deciding to retake their marriage vows after failing to win.

A new approach

Director Santiago Zannou found several neighborhoods in Madrid – including Villaverde and El Pilar – to serve as the perfect location for filming the ads.

“Because it was a commercial related to Christmas, the movie had to have some kind elements; that’s why we threw in the snow, to make the neighborhoods a little less gritty and introduce a bit of beauty,” he told reporters.

The lottery adverts aired in 2013 featured Spanish singers – Montserrat Caballé, Raphael and David Bustamante – performing Christmas songs. But this year, the advertising team chose a different approach and thought the series should focus on the word “sharing.” This is why they chose the slogan: “The best prize is sharing it.”

Juan García Escudero, creative director at the advertising company said: “The lottery is won by work colleagues, by people you see down at the corner bar, by relatives. We are all participating, really.”

The spots feature a special soundtrack by Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow.

“Juan knows a lot about music,” Zannou said. “We needed a song that was not too well-known in our country, because emotions were already contained within our characters. We wanted a good song to stick in at the last moment, when the actors have already pulled on our heartstrings and a tear is starting to roll down your cheek.”

Lottery and tradition

Under Spanish gambling laws, the lottery is run by a branch of the Spanish Public Administration called Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, which managed to turn it into a cultural institution rather than a simple gambling operation. El Gordo dates back to the 19th century and has always offered huge prizes to a number of participants.

As the world’s second longest-running lottery, El Gordo is very popular among Spanish gamblers. When measured by the total prize payout, the Spanish Christmas Lottery is certainly the biggest in the world. Ever year, thousands of players stand in line for hours just to be able to buy a ticket from a few sale points considered to be “lucky”.

What’s more, El Gordo is not just for gamblers. The lottery is popular among all Spanish citizens and most of them buy at least one of the many available types of tickets every year. In the past couple of years, about 70% of all available tickets got sold.

Although it’s highly unlikely that all lottery tickets will be sold this year, the prize pool could exceed EUR2 billion, giving a few lucky winners something to look forward to this Christmas.

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