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Best Practices for Keeping Giveaways Legal Without Sacrificing Fun!

By Josh Ledgard

Do your eyes glaze over on legal documents? Do you hate trying to decipher obscure legal texts in order to understand how it applies to you? Our goal is not just to make it easy for your to run a legal giveaway online, but also to keep it fun, engaging, and transparent for your audience.

Keep reading if that sounds like a goal for you too.

Start with the (required) details

We’ve already published a great series of articles to help ensure that your giveaways stay compliant with various federal, state, and local regulations. I suggest starting with these basics to make sure you dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Then come back here for more best practices.

Learn about the different types of giveaways.

General Contest, Sweepstakes, and Giveaway Laws in the U.S.

General Contest, Sweepstakes, and Giveaway Laws in the U.K.

Understanding Specific Promotion Laws for your State

Download our FREE Template for Sweepstakes and Giveaway Rules, Terms, and Conditions

However a LOT of that information is going to be hidden behind a link to the “Official Contest Rules”. There are key parts of the rules that should be obvious to everyone that comes to the entry page for your giveaway.

Explain Who is Behind the Contest

State the identity of all hosts, promoters, and sponsors. This includes your business, the sponsor of the prize (if any), and any marketing agency who is handling the campaign on your behalf. Yes, in the official rules you’ll also need to list your business’s physical address, but on the actual contest page it should be clear who is sponsoring the contest and who is collecting the email addresses for giveaway.

Example of a clear sponsor

I mean… you did this to grow your audience right? Make sure they know who to thank!

(Note: Facebook requires any contest or sweepstakes to explicitly declare its sponsors so as to not suggest they are running the event.)

Clearly describe the prize(s) and rewards

You’d be shocked how many contests I’ve seen where I can’t tell what I’d be entering for. You are going to be giving something fun away. Make sure people see an image of it, there’s a great description, etc.

If it’s your product as a prize consider the contest page similar to a sales page for the product in question. They have to be excited to win just like they’d have to be excited to purchase. Here is a great example of a giveaway that makes the prize clear:

Clear prize giveaway example

If your prize has a trademarked name (e.g. “Apple” or “Disney”), you cannot include it in the title of your campaign because that implies Apple or Disney is sponsoring it. Save the complete prize description for the official rules. (Be sure to state that the prize cannot be exchanged for cash.)

Be Clear Who It’s For

It’s important that if you know you only want residence of a specific state, country or region to enter… consider making that clear in the text. You could even add a dropdown to make people declare their location as a required part of the entry. This will help keep your list clean and well targeted in the end by preventing people who couldn’t be one of your customers to enter.

Use the form to explain who a giveaway is for.

List all eligibility requirements in your official rules. Be cautious, as some requirements may constitute what federal law calls “consideration,” i.e. anything of value that the entrant must give up to participate. Sweepstakes must not require consideration at all. Also, make sure you don’t use any criteria that could be discriminatory.

Explain how they win or earn rewards or extra entries

Describe all the ways in which someone can enter the contest or sweepstakes, as well as detailed entry and selection procedures (the submission form, contact method, etc.).

If you are using reward levels make it obvious what you want them to do in order to earn points towards the rewards, how many of each reward there is, and who gets the rewards if more than the alloted people qualify. Is it simply who earned it first?

If you are running a skill based contest make sure to explain who is judging the submissions. How many rounds of review are there? What are the special criteria for entry?

Use the form to explain who a giveaway is for.

Make the End Date Clear

State all dates and times, including when the event begins and ends, when entries close, when the winner(s) will be chosen and notified, etc.

This is also good for you because having a countdown gives your audience a sense of urgency. It also gives you a target date you can use to schedule a fun email sequence to the participants of the contest… perhaps with small weekly prizes and and encouragement to keep sharing along the way.

Share the odds of winning

Chances are, if you are reading this, a participant in your contest has a far far higher chance of winning than their state lottery. Don’t be shy about telling people they have a one in 800 chance of winning if there are only 800 participants. This is likely to get them more excited and taking the additional actions on your giveaway that could earn them additional entries or points.

Sharing the odds of a giveaway.

The same principle applies to running a waitlist campaign. Sure - you could pretend 10,000 people have already joined, but that wouldn’t be transparent and also takes away the excitement from early entries who would love to say they were in the first 100 to join!

Consider a brief note about fraud & a “mini-disclaimer”

If you are giving away something of value then you are going to get people trying to cheat the system. One way to stop fraud is to be up front about the rules. Consider adding some text directly ON the contest page about limits to the number of entries per IP address, using robots, or disposable email addresses. Some examples of explicit rules you may want to include:

Learn more about how to reduce fraud in your contests.

A sample note at the bottom of the contest page could look like this…

We’re working to keep this giveaway fun for everyone. That means we’re going to be excluding duplicate entries, fake referrals, temporary email addresses, people using robots or scripts to add entries, and anyone else we strongly suspect has violated any of the official contest rules (Link to official rules).

Here is one in action.

Add a mini-disclaimer to your online giveaway.

Protect Your Participants’ Privacy Rights

You likely want to share the contest or sweepstakes results and promote the winner. Before writing your announcement or press release, be sure that you have the rights to share the winner’s information.

If you are going to be sharing more information about the winners you should consider having the winners sign a media release form. They should be able to choose whether they want their name, image, both, or neither published in your promotions.

If you plan to use their contact details for marketing purposes, you must disclose that. Participants must consent to their information being used in this way. This is also true if you are partnering with other companies to co-promote a giveaway. Make sure the entrants understand all the parties that their information is being shared with.

For User Generated Content…

For contests, disclose how you plan to use submissions. As the purpose is often to collect user-generated content, you’ll need permission to reproduce photos, videos, etc. To avoid any legal troubles, make sure your contestants understand how their content may be used and opt-out if they so desire.

Wrapping Up

We hope you found this article helpful. Remember, these are basic best practices. When it comes to the legal compliance you should consult with an attorney or other legal advisor when developing your contest or sweepstakes. It’s better to do your homework and ensure full compliance than to launch with potential legal issues lurking!

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