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| February 5, 2014

The 5 Most Common Mistakes with Sweepstakes and Contest Rules

Contests and sweepstakes are great tools to engage an audience, and it can be an easy sell to business owners and executives on their effectiveness. However, there are many steps that go into ensuring your contest has what it needs to really succeed, before it is launched. One of the most vital parts is determining the contest rules, and of course, that’s where many marketers and contest administrators fail.

1.  Not making any rules

Novices can come up with many rationalizations to go without any rules for a contest. Just to name a few:

  • The prize is too small
  • The contest is straightforward
  • The promotion period is short
  • The launch date is too soon

The bottom line, though, is that not providing rules for a contest is always wrong. The audience you want to participate needs clear instructions, and if they decide to enter, they want to be sure that they’re doing it correctly. And, your company needs to be legally protected. It’s up to you to provide that information. Here are a few areas to consider when creating your rules:

  • Prizes available and odds of winning
  • Age and location eligibility
  • How entries will be accepted
  • Possible disqualifications of entries
  • Location eligibility
  • Selection process
  • Relatives or employee entries

2.  Typos and grammar

Noticeable grammar and spelling errors are quick ways to establish negative associations with your brand in any situation. If you personally create the outline and content for the sweepstakes or contest, have multiple people read it over for you. After spending so much time and effort scanning the content, fresh eyes are needed to pick up on what you might have missed. Proofreaders are valuable to ensure that you’re not sending out the wrong message, which leads to our next point.

3.  Confusing language

Your campaign should not be overly complicated if you want people to enter successfully. Your proofreader(s) also have the responsibility to make sure that the directions are clear, concise and simple. If you’re creating a high-stakes sweepstakes or a contest with a large prize amount, you’ll typically need to involve a legal team to create official and abbreviated rules that comply with state and federal laws. Always make sure you’re answering at least the 5 W’s and an H.

  • Who can enter?
  • What exactly do you want your entrants to do?
  • When should they do it?
  • Where can they go for more information?
  • Why should they?
  • How can they enter?

 4.  Copying or reusing rules from past contests

No matter how many times you’ve duplicated a contest, copying or reusing the rules is a serious misstep. Just because your campaign hasn’t changed, that doesn’t mean the people and outside platforms it involves have also stayed the same. Many brands choose to run campaigns on Facebook, and it has its own guidelines for how promotions (eg. a contest or sweepstakes) can run. Changes on Facebook happen frequently and brands have to follow suit. The demographic and geographic definitions of your contest may change as your business shifts or refocuses its marketing efforts, as well. It’s important to remember that these and other conditions can and do change. So never assume that copying will do the trick, and never simply copy from a competitor or unrelated business’s promotion. That could present entirely more difficult problems.

 5.  Mixing up the definitions of a contest and sweepstakes

In the public eyes, a contest and a sweepstakes are the same thing, but for marketers there are clear differences. A contest is a competition where entrants perform a task (submit a photo, follow a social account, share content, etc.) and are subsequently judged based on the results of that action. A sweepstakes is a way for sponsors or brands to give away prizes based on luck of the draw. The entrant typically enters with only their name and contact information. Both are very popular, but it’s vital that the rules establish the difference.

Want more information on how to make an eye-catching contest and sweepstakes? SCA Promotions is here to help! Reach out to us, toll-free at 1-888-860-3770. Also, read The 5 Basic Rules to Any Promotion.


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