I'm sure if you have ever been driving down the road listening to the radio, you have heard the word promotion thrown around. Whether someone is giving away free tickets or asking someone to compete for a shot at free tickets to a concert, movie premiere, sporting event or hot new event venue in the city for example, there is a difference between the various promotions that are advertised. While the word promotion can be used to describe both sweepstakes and contests, sweepstakes and contests are two very different forms of a promotion.
When it comes to advertising a contest or a sweepstakes, one of the most important tasks a person or company needs to do is ensure their "Official Rules" have been properly drafted. The official rules lay out who can enter, including age and citizenship requirements, how to enter, and the rules of the promotion to name a few. Knowing the difference between sweepstakes and contests will help you know how to structure the official rules so that you can mitigate your legal trouble if a contestant argues the promotion was not properly executed.
Sweepstakes are a game of chance. Winners are randomly selected, so each entry has an equal chance of winning. From a marketing stand point, sweepstakes are used to generate consumer awareness and grow your client base. They are easy to enter and only require a minimal amount of personal information like your name, email and address. The person entering will have to confirm that they are legally able to enter this sweepstakes by confirming they are of age and have read the official rules.
Contests are a game of skill. Winners are judged based on a certain set of criteria. Contests advertise a call-to-action that will be judged against particular criteria laid out in the official rules. Examples of a call-to-action include answering a question, writing an essay or poem, designing a logo, and many other tasks that require the person entering the promotion to answer the call-to-action by fulfilling a specific task.
Whether you plan to run a sweepstakes or a contest, make sure to speak with an attorney about drafting official rules to mitigate your legal exposure.