Sweepstakes and Contests: The Ultimate Fan Engagement Incentive

Written by: Ho Son



Increase consumer engagement, arouse curiosity, inspire loyalty, and encourage word-of-mouth advertising by rewarding new and loyal customers with prizes, trips, giveaways, and much more. Learn the ins and outs of running high-volume and impactful sweepstakes and contest promotions.

  • The Engagement Economy

  • How People Interact with Brands Online

  • What Makes the Promotion a Success?

  • Reasons Sweepstakes and Contests Fail

  • Benefits of Running Engagement Promotions

  • Elements in the Promotional Marketing Strategy

  • Types of Sweepstakes and Contests

Today's modern marketers face the steep and daunting challenge of engaging with customers on multiple digital devices. From mobile phones to text messages and social media, screens and speakers across the globe are used to access data, research ideas, answer questions, and make purchases.

Engagement requires interactivity and communication. There are many strategies marketing professionals use to boost participation, such as voting, promotional giveaways, integrative sweepstakes, and competitive contests. 

And nobody likes to fail at these promotions, which is why tackling engagement is every marketing manager’s white whale. It’s something they know they must capture, but the process may be painful and even risky to the bottom line. Tough questions arise when building an engagement campaign, such as:

1. How practical or necessary are activities like sweepstakes and contests?

2. How profitable are sweepstakes, contests, and other integrative promotional marketing campaigns?

3. What are the options for running these campaigns?

4. Are they trackable?

5. Can we reuse the data in other marketing campaigns?

6. Will the technology integrate with other information systems in the organization?

The answers to these questions and more are found in the words, graphics, and images below. We know the struggle marketing managers face in today’s digital marketing landscape. Now is a good time to address one of the best ways to get people involved with your brand, event, or concept: fun and exciting sweepstakes or contests.

We Are Now in the Engagement Economy

In 2017, the world officially entered the “ engagement economy ,” a world where marketers now have to engage and deliver a meaningful experience to all stakeholders, across every channel. And if you weren’t already adapting to this shift in business culture, 2020 and COVID-19 really left you no choice.

Fun fact: An individual looks at anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day and is exposed to hundreds of different brands.

Let’s do a quick exercise. It’s 6:00 a.m. You roll out of your Boll and Branch sheets and take a one-eyed peek at your iPhone or Android. Then, you shuffle over to the Unilever-filled bathroom to use Sensodyne, Listerine, and a half-dozen other brands to get ready for the day. You crack a Happy Egg for breakfast and drain the name-brand coffee from your Crate & Barrel mug before heading to work in either a domestic or foreign-made vehicle.

You barely notice encountering these brands almost daily. Yet, something compelled you to pick up that specific brand when purchasing. And what could make the difference in convincing a customer to switch brands?

It’s not hard to see why brands are struggling to stand out against all that brand noise. One thing that makes buyers recognize, remember, and really engage with brands is the company’s promotional marketing campaign strategy. Of course, they don’t usually think of it quite like that, but we do because we’re in the business of engagement— it’s in our DNA . We know how buyers can engage with your brand.

Increasing Engagement Can Be Tough But is Key

It can be done, and we can help.  Talk to a sweepstakes and contest expert today.

Why and How People Interact with Brands Online

There are several ways buyers interact with a brand online. They can visit a website, social page, or leave reviews on Yelp, G2, Google, you name it. They can call, write, text, and even instant message the company.

There’s a heightened sense of instant gratification and accessibility online because things and people move fast. Convenience is something most of us have a hard time sacrificing.

Understanding how and why consumers interact with brands online can help marketing managers and executives find unique and impactful ways to reach consumers. Building a loyal, fanatic audience base requires promotional campaigns that put users at the center of an immersive and appealing experience.

Of interesting note is a recent study from The Manifest . It explores how many consumers interact with brands through social media. Researchers discovered most people want to buy from businesses they follow on social media. That means marketing managers need to leverage their reach on social platforms with fun, branded social media sweepstakes or contests .

And while a social media giveaway is a great way to increase engagement and reach, you can use sweepstakes and prizes to incentivize downloads of your native app or traffic back to your website.

Over the last 19 years, we’ve worked with business executives and marketing managers from all over the world to help them realize the full transformative results with sweepstakes and contests.

For example:

Given the higher demands from buyers, promotional marketing strategies should include giveaways and prizes. An integrative solution from Telescope offers supportive and turnkey sweepstakes management that helps you hurdle the biggest obstacles in engagement.

See more of our case studies here .

What Makes a Successful Sweepstakes or Contest?

Is a sweepstake or contest really the way to go? Marketing managers often ask that question because these promotions can be expensive and often fail to improve engagement if not done correctly.

However, learning what makes sweepstakes or contests successful will help managers execute an integrative promotional strategy that boosts engagement, leads to greater brand awareness, and attracts new customers.

Like every other marketing strategy, sweepstakes and contests aren't the magic bullets for building engagement. More often than not, companies need to use cross-system, multi-functional promotions to engage different buyers at different stages of the journey. However, marketing giveaways in sweepstakes are a great way to inspire loyalty, increase awareness, and build excitement around the brand.

There are four key pieces to a well-planned promotional sweepstakes campaign that’s looking to inspire audience participation:

1. The Commitment: Running impactful, profitable sweepstakes or contests takes a total commitment to its execution, which means making sure there is a plan for marketing and awareness around the sweepstakes to guarantee your audience is aware and spreading the word on your behalf.
2. The Goals: These should be specific goals set such as increasing social engagement/followers or collection of PII for remarketing purposes.
3. The Prize: Be sure the prize is something significant that participants will want or find useful. There’s no point running a sweepstakes without a worthy trophy at the finish line.

Legal Considerations of Running Promotional Sweepstakes

A marketing strategy that includes sweepstakes or contests comes with some rules.

Since a sweepstakes marketing campaign involves a prize and win-by-chance, the strategy will need to ensure a disclaimer states "NO PURCHASE NECESSARY" or something similar. Consumers should be able to enter without considerable effort.

However, let's say you want to promote a new product or service and need consumers to buy and try first. In this case, where a purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes or contest, the company must provide consumers with an alternative means of entry , or AMOE, such as a web form entry, telephone entry, text message reply, or social media entry.

The corporate or business lawyer should look at these before launching to the public. There are legal risks to consider. Namely, it's crucial to ensure there’s a solid privacy policy and appropriate data security in place to support an uptick in receiving personal data.

Reasons Promotional Sweepstakes and Contests Fail

Sometimes, marketing managers and executives make the mistake of setting expectations too high and assuming a grand prize will automatically grow the audience. Unmet expectations "sour the belly" to running future sweepstakes and contests; therefore, it's important to understand the main reasons these strategies don't work.

1. The prizes are unappealing, confusing, or hidden.

2. Signup or registration is too involved or complex.

3. An ID is required when running a sweepstakes, so make sure the form fields capture the information you need.

4. The effort to enter is higher than the prize is worth. There must be a good prize-to-effort ratio.

5. Overdone messaging with too many announcements, reminders, and updates can be overkill but, if participants can improve their chances of winning by performing another action like sharing or entering to win each day, then making sure that is included in your messaging is key to get the most out of that engagement advantage.

6. There is also the problem of not promoting the sweepstakes enough. Some brands rely too heavily on the prize itself to do all the heavy lifting. You still need to make sure you are getting the word out consistently and in ideal platforms to ensure participation.

7. Poor targeting can be a killer of promotional marketing campaigns—location matters. For instance, you wouldn't sell outdoor pools to people in the Northern Rocky Mountains. It's similar online. You wouldn't target Tik Tok users if your audience spends most of its time on industry forums or Facebook.

8. Poor timing of the campaign can be a problem. Running sweepstakes and contests at the most inopportune moment can kill any momentum you might have had with great prizing or influencer cross-promotion. Sweepstakes and contests should run during a time that’s relevant to the promotion and timely for consumers.

9. The campaign is not responsive or mobile-friendly. That is, it's only available to certain people with specific devices or browsers.

10. Lack of follow-through tends to be a significant issue with sweepstakes and contests. What do you do with all that data? An integrated sweepstakes management solution from Telescope can help.

Talk to a Sweepstakes and Contest Expert!

Benefits of Running Promotional Sweepstakes and Contests

There are three primary benefits to running promotional marketing campaigns that inspire engagement.

1. The data collected is an asset to decision-makers.
2. Integrative sweepstakes solutions make it easy to integrate with other campaigns.
3. There is potential for high levels of social validation with bold and balanced promotional strategies.

Gather Prime Consumer Research Data

One of the best benefits of running sweepstakes and contests is the collection of massive amounts of data. It's a promotional strategy that gathers information about buying trends in the industry, consumer preferences, and product or service popularity. It's exceedingly valuable for operational and financing decisions.

The information collected in sweepstakes and contests allows organizations to adapt quickly to market changes and sell only the best products in the highest demand at the most competitive prices. Further, marketing managers will better understand where their customers are engaging with the brand online.

Integrate Into Other Marketing Campaigns

With a convenient, default-checked opt-in box at the bottom of each sweepstakes form, you can grow your email and direct mail lists for remarketing campaigns. Adding a grand prize through sweepstakes and contests is an easy way to integrate engagement into an existing marketing campaign.

For example, include an “Enter to Win” or “Play to Win” sweepstakes game to the company’s loyalty program. Sweepstakes and contests can also incentivize consumers and staff to interact with the brand and provide invaluable data to marketing campaigns.

Promote and Advertise

Sweepstakes and contests are fun and exciting ways to increase consumer engagement online, in-store, at events, or elsewhere in the community and market. These promotional marketing campaigns can bring in new customers, build better brand awareness, and benefit from free word-of-mouth advertising when done right. Companies can boost social media presence by tying sweepstakes entries to social media follows, likes, shares, or comments.

Elements to Include in Your Marketing Giveaway Strategy

Avoiding the mistakes reviewed in the top 10 reasons sweepstakes and contests fail will go a long way to improving response rates on these promotions. There are also a few elements to include in the strategy that will keep the campaign running smoothly.

First, it’s critical to start planning as soon as possible. These promotions should be scheduled 3 to 6 months in advance for optimal response.

A successful engagement marketing campaign strategy includes the following:

1. Define the audience and identify the primary persona(s).
2. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely).
3. Make a list of resources required to launch the campaign
4. Create a budget – and stick with it.
5. Once the contest offers and sweepstakes prizes are determined, define them clearly with guidelines and terms.
6. Identify the type of contest or sweepstakes the organization will run.
7. Strategize and create a tentative schedule for promotion and distribution.

The Most Popular Types of Sweepstakes and Contests

At Telescope, we pride ourselves on having nearly two decades of experience delivering high-profile, real-time audience engagement experiences. Here are our award-winning products for promotional sweepstakes and contests.

Easy Sweeps
Customized sweepstakes forms with the exact data fields and assets desired.

Try a familiar favorite with a scratcher ticket to enter or play in the contest or sweepstakes.

SMS/Text Messaging
Use a self-service tool or hire Telescope’s Ops team to run an interactive SMS campaign.

Social Sweepstakes
Leverage social platforms to build awareness and grow your audience by rewarding them for engagement.

Offer a range of experiences and provide a way for users to enter through a toll-free number.

Easily collect user-generated content (UGC) where users share images, videos, or text to enter and play.

We Know You Have Options

With new technology, a competitive digital landscape, and a tightened marketing budget, it’s best to put your trust in the engagement experts who’ve been doing it for 19 years. See our case studies for proof!

Talk to a Sweepstakes and Contest Expert Today!