Contest Marketing: The Basics of Sweepstakes and Contesting

As a CPG brand, your team is constantly trying to come up with a killer new consumer promotions strategy to increase sales and shopper engagement. Often, this leads brands to consider a sweepstakes or contesting option. 

Formally known as Contest Marketing, this is a great way to generate excitement and activity around your brand message, and – when done right – there are plenty of benefits of contests for your business, including elevating your overall brand experience. 

First, let’s breakdown the various types of Contest Marketing available. You may not realize but there is an important difference between Sweepstakes and Contests:

  • Sweepstakes – Also known as giveaways, these are typically games of chance. Anyone can play and has an equal chance of winning.
  • Contests – These are typically games of skill. Contestants are judged on skill or a specific criteria and then the winners are selected based on their merit or performance.

Next, it’s very important that your brand carefully follows the “No Purchase Necessary Laws” for your contests or sweepstakes.

  • This law is put in place to regulate prize promotions that occur in the United States while also snuffing out any illegal contests. Essentially, the goal is to keep brands from forcing users to make a purchase or provide considerations for a random winner drawing. 
  • Keep in mind that these laws DO NOT pertain to contests because the winner is selected by skill or merit, and their purchases may fall under consideration for the brand.
  • When planning your sweepstakes or contests, be sure to include your official rules (see more below) to cover your brand in this way. As always, a contest marketing agency is a great asset here.
The Difference Between a Lottery and a Sweepstakes:

Simply put, if you have all three of the below, that’s called a lottery and is illegal. However, if you only have two of the three, it’s a sweepstakes and you’re good to go.

  1. Prize (something to give away)
  2. Chance (randomness is best)
  3. Consideration (Payment or some method of entry that requires measurable effort)

What to Include in your Contest’s Official Rules:

As you outline your contest or sweepstake’s official rules, here is a handy list of what to include to assure your users that your brand is administering a fair and lawful contest.  To get the most out of your campaign, it’s best to work with a Contest Marketing agency who understands the legal compliance necessary and can provide full-service strategy and execution for your next promotion. 

  • The Sweepstakes name
  • The Sponsor(s) (who is the contest for)
  • The Administrator (who is executing the contest for you)
  • The Administrator Contact information 
  • The Start and End dates/times
  • Eligibility requirements (this helps ensure legal compliance)
    • Minimum age to enter, ex. “Must be 18 to enter”
    • Location criteria, i.e. “Void where prohibited”
    • Any and all exemptions, such as age, state, legal citizenship, etc.
    • No purchase necessary clarification – Once again, this is very important as it determines the difference between a Sweepstakes (what we want to do) and a Lottery (illegal for anyone but a state lottery and nonprofits to run)
  • Explanation of how the contest “works”
    • Necessary criteria to enter
    • How is a winner selected 
    • What are the odds of winning?
    • An alternate method of entry (usually a mail-in option)
    • How to find out who won
  • Explanation of Prizes
    • How many prizes are available?
    • Include a full description of each 
    • Approximate retail value of each and a grand total
    • Who is providing the prizes?
    • When is it being distributed and awarded?
  • Explanation of Taxes
    • Who is responsible for taxes?
  • Restrictions and releases
    • These protect the sponsors and administrator 
    • They explain the contingency plan for selecting a winner and the rules that a winner must abide by if they win
    • Include any custom disclaimers
    • If posting on social media, include a release of the platform(s)
Learn how to boost engagement, build your database and support sales with contest marketing

Following Social Media Guidelines for a Contest or Sweepstakes:

At Cliffedge Marketing, we suggest embedding the rules on your website. This proves very useful so you can provide a link to the page rather than spell it out every time on social media. It’s always best to keep your posts as short as possible. 

Here are our recommendations across the core social media platforms:

  • Facebook Contest Guidelines
    • Must clearly state that Facebook does not have anything to do with the contest.
    • Must have a complete release of Facebook by each participant
    • Cannot make “tag a friend” a part of the requirement to enter
    • Cannot make “Share this to a timeline” (either yours or a friends) a part of a requirement to enter
    • See the full list of Facebook contest requirements
  • Instagram Contest Guidelines
    • Must clearly state that Instagram does not have anything to do with the contest.
    • Must have a complete release of Instagram by each participant
    • No making people tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in said photo
    • See the full list of Instagram contest requirements
  • Twitter Contest Guidelines
    • Don’t repeatedly post duplicate or near-duplicate content
    • Don’t abuse trending topics or hashtags
    • Don’t send automated or bot generated Tweets
    • Other than that, it’s the Wild, Wild West on Twitter
    • See the full list of Twitter contest requirements

As you can see, this guide just scratches the surface of the many ins and outs of setting up a sweepstakes or contest for your brand.

When you’re ready to take the first step in contest marketing or are interested in learning more, get started with some free advice from the digital contesting experts at Cliffedge Marketing.
Contest Marketing Guide
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