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The Jersey Debate – The Meat of the Issue

How a Sandwich Name Spat Turned Breakfast Meat into Ticket Sales.

By Dean Ialacci, New Jersey Lottery

June 25, 2024

NASPL Insights Online

The Goal

The New Jersey Lottery’s goal for a ticket launch in Summer 2023 was, broadly, to move the needle by introducing a truly unique ticket. The new ticket would be tied distinctly to a New Jersey cultural identity, which could not perform in any other market, with the heavy task of offsetting a summer slump in Scratch-Off sales. The small-budget campaign had lofty goals considering the ticket was positioned at the $5 price point – the most crowded option at retail. The escalating goals were:

  • To outperform all other $5 Scratch-Offs over the summer.

  • To outperform $5 Scratch-Offs all year.

  • To generate enough sales and buzz to justify bold summer marketing efforts going forward.

Meeting these goals would necessitate media attention, social buzz, and a hyper-local yet widely known concept to drive emotional engagement.



What is Pork Roll and Why Does New Jersey Care So Much?

A small circle of pork, sliced edges to prevent bubbling, sizzled to perfection, paired with egg and cheese to make the perfect breakfast sandwich. This popular sandwich can be found in every diner and deli from Jersey City to Cape May, and New Jerseyans cannot get enough of it. There’s just been one little problem for the last century – what do we call it?

The story of pork roll in New Jersey officially begins in 1856 with John Taylor’s pork roll product, Taylor Ham, sold out of Trenton. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 gave a legal definition to ham and forced a name change of the eponymous product to just “pork roll.” Pork roll is similar to deli meat, sliced a bit thicker than usual, and fried, seared, or griddled to taste. Despite the legal name changing, and other companies producing their own pork roll, steadfast New Jerseyans kept the old name via word of mouth. Even now, over 100 years later, the state is torn in two: is it pork roll, or Taylor Ham?

This generations-old cultural tiff provided the perfect basis on which to launch the uniquely Jersey ticket. The $5 ticket, The Jersey Debate, had a top prize of $200,000 and immediately stood out from the pack. Adorned with a photo-realistic slice of meat, the ticket practically crackled and hissed off the shelf. Players scratched their way through the play area, looking not just for matching numbers, but also for “HAM” and “PORK” symbols indicating winning prizes. 


Campaign Challenges

As campaign and ticket designs were still underway, Taylor Provisions, the company that holds the trademark for Taylor Ham, declined to take part in the campaign, leaving the campaign in a tight spot – continue while creatively avoiding brand name mentions, or abandon the idea entirely. Not wanting to give up on the distinctly Jersey touchpoint, the Lottery and its marketing partners moved forward, turning the creative squeeze into an opportunity. New Jersey Lottery maintained total neutrality throughout the campaign, refusing to ever use the words “pork roll” or “Taylor Ham” in any produced content.

The multi-channel marketing campaign for The Jersey Debate was designed to be small budget, exciting, and engaging, all while targeting a brand impact on par with our biggest campaigns. Earned media and word-of-mouth would do the heavy lifting for the ticket, with the debate over the name of the breakfast meat on top of everyone’s mind.

Ideas and Implementation

In the weeks leading up to the campaign, all 7,000 New Jersey Lottery retailers received mysterious teaser stickers, featuring a cartoon slice of pork roll, piquing the intrigue of players across the state. The teaser stickers served to get retailers and players talking about what the ticket could entail and their naming preferences for the meat.

To show our increased commitment to the campaign, the New Jersey Lottery logo was altered, swapping the clover leaf ball for that same strikingly pink slice of pork on a variety of digital and printed assets for the duration of the campaign. The lottery website, social accounts, and temporary advertising and point-of-sale materials all reflected the whimsical new logo.



Our social team launched a video interviewing players on the street, asking for their opinion on the debate and prompting them to choose a side. To remain neutral, all player answers were comically bleeped from the final product. We even took the debate all the way to the top, getting New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on video offering up his own censored answer.

The following weeks saw the promotions team hosting “meat ups” throughout the state. Giveaways were hosted at delis serving savory pork roll wherever possible, and bringing a pork-selling food truck everywhere else. To really drive home how dedicated we were to the customer experience, even the sandwich wraps were branded with our new logo, the first time lottery and food have been so closely intertwined.

We partnered with a local food truck, Johnny’s Pork Roll and Coffee Too, to attend our “meat up” events and offered a giveaway unlike anything we’ve done before: three lucky winners won a private two-hour event with the food truck serving up free sandwiches and beverages.


Online polls got players involved, voting on favorite recipes, condiments, and other pork-related debates. Mobile billboards advertising the ticket waved the not-quite-odorous slice of pork roll under everyone’s nose, enticing players everywhere. A radio spot featured a mock town hall on the topic, really leaning into the debate aspect of the ticket.

Later that summer, the campaign took flight – literally – when the 65-foot tall “Lucky Pig” hot air balloon took to the skies at the 2023 New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning. The 750-pound balloon sported shades, wings, and our pork-ified logo as it flew alongside dozens of other hot air balloons.



Impact and Results

The campaign was a resounding success, meeting the campaign objectives and more. The Jersey Debate had the highest first week sales for a $5 Scratch-Off, ever. Sales for the first four weeks of the ticket launch were 30% higher than average, and it beat out top traditional tickets like Lucky 7s and Crossword, even after accounting for marketing spend.

At the 2024 Association of National Advertisers REGGIE Awards, New Jersey Lottery and its marketing partners won gold in New Product or Service Launch for the comprehensive launch of the ticket and campaign, beating out other marketing titans McDonald’s and Lysol for the award.



It’s A Jersey Thing

The success of The Jersey Debate and its summer cultural campaign has paved the way for 2024’s launch, It’s A Jersey Thing. The $10 ticket offers prizes up to $500,000 and features six homegrown designs that any Garden State resident could be proud of. Iconography of New Jersey pizza, the Jersey Shore, traditional diners, Jersey tomatoes, NJ Turnpike signs, and “No Self Service” – a nod to our last-in-the-nation laws enshrining full-service gas stations for all drivers.

New Jersey may be small, but its culture is huge. We like to say, “Anything can happen in Jersey,” and we mean it. Birthplace of everything from the first production lightbulbs to Weird NJ, saltwater taffy to Monopoly, drive-in theaters to pork roll… or was it Taylor Ham?


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