Games, Contest, and Sweeptakes

Posted on February 16, 2011

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1) How online Games, Contests and Sweepstakes can be used to generate a positive ROI for your brand;

2) The important distinctions between online Games, Contests and Sweepstakes;

3) The legal considerations you should be aware of prior to structuring an online promotion

The Web 2.0 explosion has created unprecedented opportunities for brands to engage consumers in the digital spaces where they work and play. Brand marketing budgets increasingly reflect this trend as dollars continue to shift away from ‘traditional’ advertising into new media.

Web-based interactive promotions — particularly contests, games, and sweepstakes — are a key component of this movement because they can target broad-ranging demographic segments, cross diverse brand categories easily, and — most importantly — provide a measurable return on investment while opening up an ongoing dialogue with consumers.

There are, however, subtle differences between online “Sweepstakes,” “Games” and “Contests” so care must be taken by Marketers to ensure that their online promotion is structured properly to comply with various laws surrounding games of chance and to ensure that it meets the programs objectives.

Online Sweepstakes: These programs generally have two principal components: (1) a registration component and (2) a drawing element for prizes (daily, weekly, monthly or at the end of the program). Interactive elements can be incorporated into the Sweepstakes to create rich user experiences with branded elements but no skill is required by the Entrant

Online Games: Online games are generally a variation of a sweepstakes; however, require a perceived element of skill to engage participants at a deeper level. Viral elements are often integrated to spread the reach of the promotion. They are sometimes referred to by Marketers as “Instant Win Games”.

Online Contests: Contests are not games of chance. Unlike a Sweepstakes or a Game, they require entrants to exhibit a degree of skill (make a video, submit a photo, write an essay, etc.) that must be graded by a panel of judges using an established criteria set forth in the Official Rules. Contests typically require a deep level of brand engagement.

When developing an online promotion make sure your promotional objectives are clear. A promotion designed to generate trial of a new product, for instance, is not necessarily the right promotion for long term loyalty, while a program to drive opt-in email registrations may require yet a different set of parameters. Regardless of the method chosen, baseline metrics should be established so that performance can be quantified.

Online promotions should always attract and engage visitors with content that immerses participants in branded experiences that resonate and should be more than just a blatant prize pitch. While prizes are an important component of any online promotion, they should be incorporated in a way that supports the overarching brand objective while appealing to the target demographic and involving visitors. Whether it is user generated content, an interactive game mechanic, or even just the ability to select from among available prizes, always make visitors part of the experience when structuring your program. Don’t forget to make it viral by leveraging the power of the internet to exponentially grow the reach of your promotion. Whether it is a tell-a-friend email component or a social networking application, online promotions are natural lead generators.

Make sure the logistics are covered. Online games, contests, and sweepstakes programs require careful attention to detail. From web design and development to official rules, privacy policies, prize sourcing/fulfillment, consumer affairs, winner handling/notification, and more- there are a host of issues that must be carefully managed. There are also a number of legal considerations to consider so engage a professional firm with proven experience in online games, contests, and sweepstakes to help you structure an online promotion that is in compliance with federal and state regulations.

Amberly Rundell is President of Intermix Social Media, Inc., a Ft. Lauderdale based interactive social media agency that specializes in online promotions using online games, contests, and sweepstakes for leading consumer brands. She is an active member of the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA), the Miami Interactive Marketing Association (AIMA), E-Marketers Association, and English Teacher for impoverished children around the globe

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