What is the difference between a sweepstakes and a contest? This is one of the most common questions we’re asked when working with companies or agencies who are planning to run these types of promotions for the first time. Today I am going to break down the differences between sweepstakes and contests as well as discuss which one will work best for your next promotion.
First off, what is a sweepstakes? If you were to look up the actual definition you would find that the word has many different meanings, but the following is Sync Marketing’s definition: A sweepstakes is a game of chance in which consumers are asked to provide basic information about themselves to be entered into a prize drawing. Most importantly, potential winners are selected in a random drawing. After the names are drawn, they are notified and then verified before being announced an official winner. In a sweepstakes, there can be no consideration for entry and winner selection must be completely random.
Now, what is a contest? Sync Marketing’s definition is as follows: A contest is a game of skill, where entrants are asked to complete a measurable task that is judged and scored. For example, this could be anything from a video contest featuring consumers’ pets doing their best trick, an Instagram photo contest asking entrants to submit their favorite wedding planning moment, or a Pinterest contest requiring entrants to create a board of what they think would be their dream vacation. In a contest, the judging criteria must be clearly defined for the entrants in the Official Rules. About.com also has a nice breakdown of the differences between a sweepstakes and a contests.
So how do you determine when you should run a sweepstakes vs. a contest?
Good question! You should run a sweepstakes when your goal is to reach and engage the masses with the purpose of promoting your product or service, gather email opt-ins, and collect basic consumer data. Of course, the number of entries you receive and the popularity of your promotion will be based on a few factors; how strongly it’s promoted, the ease of entry and the value of your prizes to the consumer. For more information on what types of prizes to give away see my post here. When you run a sweepstakes expect to receive a lot more entries than if you were to run a contest, and if you provide social share it has the possibility to spread like wildfire.
You should run a contest when your goal is to create PR buzz, gather user-generated content, and gain and reward consumers who are truly invested in your brand or service. If you’re giving away an international trip to a grand opening of a new store, maybe consider running a contest in which entrants are asked to upload a video of why they deserve to be at the grand opening. To further reinforce consumer interaction, have the top 10 judged videos posted online for consumers to vote for their favorite. You can then ask for publicity releases from the top 10 entrants and use those videos on your website and social media accounts to continue to promote your brand. Also, by asking for entrants to take the time to create and submit a video as a condition of entry, you know you’re going to award the prize to someone who truly wants to go on the trip!
Regardless of whether you want to run a sweepstakes or contest, please consider calling Sync Marketing to help you plan and execute your next promotion. You can find a full list of our sweepstakes and contest services here.