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"Let's Be Careful Out There:" When Looking At Sweepstakes To Boost Sales, Don't Make These Common Mistakes

With the current debt crisis looming and people tightening their belts, perhaps we’ll see more brands doubling down on sweepstakes promotions to increase sales. Before your company jumps into the fray, let’s consider some common themes that have some unintended problems:

"How to Enter" Problems:

  • “You must be vaccinated to enter” – Not unless you’re a state government. If you haven’t watched the news in the past two years, this is protected private information.
  • “Write a review of our product for a chance to win” – Nope. Implicit in writing a review is having to buy the product. Remember, “No Purchase Necessary."
    • Fix:
      • Have a free method of entry, such as mailing in a post card.
      • Turn it into a contest where the “best” review wins based upon writing ability.
  • “Fill out an entry form at our store for a chance to win” – Nah. “No Purchase Necessary” also means No Consideration Necessary. Unless you have stores close enough to all of your potential entrants, people will have to incur costs (“consideration”) to get to the store to enter.
    • Fix:
      • Allow mail-in or internet entries too.
      • Limit entrants to those within a reasonable distance of your store.
  • “Sign up for our premium membership and receive a bonus entry.” – Not if it costs money to become a premium member. Free entrants must be given equal dignity with paying entrants, including the ability to get as many entries as a paying entrant.
    • Fix:
      • Also give bonus entries for free, such as by mail or online.

Prize Problems:

  • “Win concert tickets” or “Win a two night stay” – Be careful. Unlawful consideration also includes money spent to redeem your prize, such as incurring significant cost, like travel expenses, to go to the concert or stay at a hotel.
    • Fix:
      • Limit entrants to those near the venue.
      • Include some cash with the prize to cover travel expenses.
      • OR at least make sure that all ads, disclosures, and rules clearly indicate that: “PRIZE DOES NOT INCLUDE TRAVEL.”
  • “Win a coupon toward our product” – With only a money off coupon, the winner will have to go out of pocket to get the ultimate prize.
    • Fix:
      • Give a voucher that will cover the full cost of the advertised product.
      • Don’t advertise winning a particular product and award a coupon that will cover at least a number of products you sell.


  • “Win a Lifetime Supply” – What’s a “lifetime”?
    • Put in the ad (and not just with a link to the official rules) what you mean by a “lifetime” and whether prize will be awarded in a lump sum or over time.
  • “Win a Trip to Paris”
    • If trip does not include travel:
      • Maybe come up with a new lead, such as “Win 4-Nights In Paris”
      • At least clearly put in the ad that “TRAVEL NOT INCLUDED.”
  • “Win Yuengling Beer”
    • People will assume D.G. Yuengling & Sons is a sponsor of the promotion. Don’t use this as the headline unless they are or if Dick Yuengling ok’d the use of the name.
    • Alternatives can include: “Win Pottsville’s Finest” or “Win the Beer that Rob Laplaca Drinks.”

You gotta stay one step ahead of the public and the regulators, so in the words of Sgt. Phillip Esterhaus, “let’s be careful out there.”

Topics: Contest, Giveaway, Sweepstakes