Tip Sheet/Contests|Sweepstake April/May 2009

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Helpful Hints

Let’s Make a Deal

Spending on games and contests may be flat, but consumers don’t seem to notice. They’re too busy posting photos, developing videos and singing jingles.

The slowed growth is a result of the diminished economy coupled with the saturation of games, contests and sweepstakes. Still, brand marketers are playing in the space as a way to stand out in an ad-cluttered market.

There’s little question now is the time for interactive promotion. And marketers are getting smarter. No longer are online games, for example, used strictly for entertainment and branding, but rather to educate consumers about products and services.

Take a lesson from Dairy Queen. The firm just launched an online game at DQ.com to promote the chain’s new “Sweet Deals” permanent value menu. DQ’s attempt to set itself apart from competitors marks the first time the discount menu is being offered year-round.

The menu lets customers mix and match nine menu items, choosing two for $3, three for $4 or four for $5. In all, there are more than 20,000 combinations to choose.

The game plays off that variety of food combinations by letting players use a virtual board game to choose combos to unlock a deal. The game, “What’s Your Deal,” tallies combinations and ranks scores accordingly. Nice move.


  • Marketers were expected to drop about $1.86 billion on games, contests and sweepstakes last year, compared to $1.80 billion in 2005, according to Veronis Suhler.
  • The third screen is the new playing field, as more marketers go mobile with games.
  • Sweepstakes and contests calling for user-generated content are still in demand.
  • The more ways a consumer has to enter a contest, the higher the response.


With marketing budgets becoming tighter and tighter, one good strategy is to offer a handful of “baby carrots” as prizes for games and contests rather than one large carrot. For example, instead of investing in one grand prize for one winner for a new promotion — like $1 million or a new car — offer a handful of smaller giveaways to a greater number of winners, says Miles Smith, partner and director of business development at the Smith Brothers Agency.

Here are the benefits:

  • By selecting 50 people to win $1,000 versus one person to win $50,000, marketers are able to build an army of loyal brand ambassadors who will continue to promote the brand.

  • People love winning free stuff, and that’s true in any economic climate. But given the state of the current economy, consumers are more actively looking for promotions offering a chance at winning a freebie. They are paying more attention, and even the smaller prizes are generating a great deal of interest.

  • Capitalizing on smaller, lower-value items allows marketers to imprint their logo or message, which permanently reinforces consumer loyalty and provides a little more “bang for your buck.”


TIP 1: Capturing consumer data should be a top priority when running games and contests. The registration page should include a few key questions used to better understand customers and how they feel about the product or service.

TIP 2: Tap into the ailing economy and people’s troubles. Run a contest that offers free food or gasoline. Plenty of people are looking for work, so offer a “dream job.” In partnership with CareerBuilder.com, Disney selected five “dream jobs” folks could apply for on the site: Jungle Cruise Skipper, Pirate, Haunted Mansion Butler/Maid, Princess-in-Waiting and Parade Performer. The response was nearly overwhelming: More than 10,000 people submitted some very outlandish videos in support of their desire to be a fantasy character, including one contestant all the way from Iran.

TIP 3: Engage bloggers. Dole Foods recently ditched its traditional FSIs and opted to promote its Fruit Parfaits by connecting with a number of bloggers who focus on moms and health and wellness. The bloggers were asked to talk about Dole parfaits and the supporting “Sweet Retreat” contest. Bloggers not familiar with the product were sent samples to try.


The more a giveaway item aligns with the target demographic’s interests and the more directly it ties to the consumption of the brand, the greater the participation. Developing a prize that is both relevant and interesting is critical in generating maximum interest, says Smith Brothers’ Miles Smith. For example, in a promotion for a healthy frozen snack product that required toasting, the marketing was geared toward “soccer moms.” Consumers were offered the chance to win dozens of free toaster ovens and gift cards for their kids to a popular sporting goods retailer.


Videogame retailer GameStop recently launched a sweepstakes promotion around the newest edition of the RockStar Games computer shoot-‘em-up, “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars,” that includes both instant-win and live elements.

Fans who enter the sweeps could win the chance to “Live Like a Chinatown Boss,” which according to the rules means a three-day stay in New York for themselves and three friends, an entourage of models and a bodyguard to accompany them to a nightclub VIP room, and $5,000 in “bribe money.”

Players have two ways to submit their entries, either texting the keyword “GTA” to the short code 65579 until May 17 to receive an entry for each message (one per day), or by creating and sending a “virtual fortune cookie” to a friend at the game’s GameStop Web site. They will receive a sweepstakes entry for each cookie mailed off to their friends. Winners will be selected around May 22. Apart from the “Boss” grand prize, 10 entrants will be selected to receive $500 GameStop gift cards.

The virtual fortune cookies combine a weapon icon with pictures of Chinese takeout items, include “lucky numbers,” and contain suggested enigmatic messages such as “It is a good day for revenge.” Players can substitute their own messages.

To further spread the word, GameStop partnered with RockStar on a March “Spring Break Van Tour” to promote “Chinatown Wars.” A GTA-branded van traveled to seven party spots in the South and Southwest to give revelers a hands-on experience of the new game. Fans could use an interactive map on the Web site to check when the GTA van might be coming to a beach near them. — BRIAN QUINTON

Got a games/sweepstakes tip to share? Contact Patricia Odell at patricia.odell@penton.com


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