Sweepstakes & Contests; Not All Fun and Games

Sweepstakes & Contests

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WIN! A headline the gets our attention, especially if it focuses our eye on the prize, and it’s something we suddenly can’t live without. Creating an immediate emotional connection breaks the constant bombardment of messages trying to disrupt our thought patterns. The rush to produce over-the-top creative to attract our attention, may cause marketers to leave themselves a pickle, and worse.


A Challenge That Is A Lesson to Us All

Harrier Jet infront of the a building. Sales promotions run by pepsi in the 1990's
Only 7,000,000 Pepsi Points!

Pepsi, notably among the world’s greatest marketing organizations, ran the successful Pepsi Points promotion many years ago. The official rules included a clause stating additional points may be purchased for ten cents per point. In a tongue-in-cheek ad, Pepsi got creative and mentioned that a Harrier Jet, worth in excess of 20 million dollars, can be redeemed for seven million Pepsi Points. At ten cents a point, a customer purchased additional points and took them up on the offer. Pepsi’s response, it was just an ad and the jet is not in our official catalog. Many expensive court dates followed and Pepsi eventually triumphed. Remember this story when your advertising brainstorming session loses touch with the reality established by your official rules.


Rules Are Made To Be Followed

Nancy Upton, Photo by Shannon Skloss
Nancy Upton, Photo by Shannon Skloss

American Apparel ran a photo contest for a plus size model that taught us a valuable lesson about marketing and contests. A reader of the contest ad took offense to the way the company described plus-sized women and decided to submit some outrageously creative and beautiful photos depicting her as an overeater. The public voted and she won. American Apparel didn’t follow their own rules and denied her the prize, stating they wanted a winner who was beautiful in the inside as well as the outside. Word got out and the reaction by the public was extremely negative, making national news. American Apparel recanted earlier statements and launched damage control to reverse the negative perception.


The Devils in the Details

Despite having committees of creative teams, lawyers, and other professions reviewing concept, copy and rules, a lesson learned is that there’s always a blind spot.  In an effort to come up with really creative, unique ways to grab attention, make sure you are paying attention. Know the difference between a lottery, a sweepstakes and a contest. Hire professionals to write and review the rules and hold them responsible with contracts, insurance and surety bonds.  Think of every possible thing that may go wrong, or that could take on a life of its own. If you want to have input into judging and awarding prizes, consider writing it into the rules before you begin. Focus on the objective and don’t break the rules of your promotion.  It’s all fun and games, until something goes woefully wrong.



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