The Difference Between Sweepstakes and Contests


Katie Blaney, one of Marden-Kane’s Account Supervisors, explains the difference between sweepstakes and contests. If your company wants more information on either, give us a call at 516-365-3999.

difference between sweepstakes and contests The words “promotion,” “sweepstakes,” “contest” and “giveaways” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, there are a few very distinct differences between sweepstakes and contests.

To start, the word “promotion” can be used to describe many different marketing tactics including Sweepstakes, Contests, Instant Win Games, Continuity and Loyalty Programs. Two of the most common promotions are Sweepstakes (games of chance) and Contests (games of skill). The major difference between sweepstakes and contests is that contest winners are selected by judges using a set of criteria whereas sweepstakes winners are randomly selected.

Sweepstakes are primarily used to generate awareness or to grow your client database. They are simple to implement and should be really easy for the consumer to enter. A typical online sweepstakes will ask a consumer to enter some personal information (name, address, email) for a chance to win a prize. With any legally compliant sweepstakes there will also be places for the consumer to confirm that they are within the eligible age range and that they have read and agree to the promotion’s Official Rules. Many smart marketers also include an opt-in for consent to email these consumers with company news.

If the Sweepstakes is created and managed properly your outcome could be threefold: the consumer is excited at the thought of potentially winning a great prize and shares the opportunity with fellow friends, they may be encouraged to visit your online or retail shop to continue the experience with a purchase, and you now have a valuable new lead for your company’s client database to send future marketing messages to.

Key Take Away = Sweepstakes winners are chosen by random and impact short-term behavior.

Contests are used to engage a consumer or fan with your product or service.  A simple contest will advertise a call-to-action that asks consumers to create a piece of content for a chance to be selected as a winner. The user-generated-content may be a photo, essay, video, poem, or an answer to a question.  The entry they create should then be scored and judged against a set of criteria that is outlined in your Official Rules. This ensures the judging process will be fair for all entries. The content they create can be invaluable to your brand. Not only can you gain insights and market research first hand on your brand loyalists but the content can be used later in other marketing efforts if the proper releases are collected.

Most importantly a contest is about connecting and building deeper relationships with your consumers. Your fans are actively choosing to spend a considerable amount of time engaging with your content, site, and sometimes, your product. Be sure the prize at the end of the promotion is equivalent to the effort they have put in on their end.

Key Take Away = Contest winners are selected by judges and are a great way to engage and interact with your consumers and fans.

You need to decide what type of promotion you should run by defining your business goals in advance. By asking yourself “what is the primary objective for running this promotion?” you will be able to choose the right tactic to achieve that goal.

If you need help planning your sweepstakes or contest contact us.

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