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Anyone else find it best to start at the start or just me? I know it’s exciting to dive straight in and start planning your competition, but the key to a successful competition is understanding what a competition is in the first place.

So for the beginners among us, let’s start at the start.

What’s the difference between a sweepstake, giveaway, contest and competition?

Short answer: nothing. Longer answer: technically nothing.

A giveaway is pretty self-explanatory, according to Google, it’s “a thing that is given free, often for promotional purposes”.

Giveaways can apply to giving away branded USB sticks at an expo with no expectation of anything from the customer in return, or it can refer to a competition, where you give away a prize in return for your entrant’s details.

Some claim that a contest implies skill is involved to win (game of skill) as you are in a contest with other entrants, whereas a sweepstake is about chance to win at random (game of chance).

Apart from the fact that the words ‘sweepstake’ or ‘contest’ aren’t commonly used outside of America and Canada; ‘competition‘ seems to be commonly accepted as the general umbrella term for any promotional activity that gives away a prize in return for entry into a prize draw, regardless of the entry process or method by which the winner is drawn.

So what is a competition, then?

The definition of a competition is as follows:

A competition is a defined period of time in which those who wish to enter, must meet a set of predefined criteria in exchange for a fair and equal chance to win a reward or incentive (also known as a prize).

Why does the definition even matter?

Well, defining what a competition is matters for two reasons – firstly because it helps you manage your expectations and secondly, it also defines what a competition is not.

Let’s break down the definition…

A defined period of time

This means you should decide, in advance, how long your competition will run for and not just make it up on the fly.

It’s really important to have a pre-determined open date and a definitive (i.e. non negotiable) close date. If you get to the day before close date and you’ve only received 3 entries, it’s not fair (not to mention just a tad against the law) to extend the close date to try and squeeze more entries out of your competition.

A set of predefined criteria

The criteria for entry – and for winning the competition – must be clearly defined by you and communicated to your audience.

For example, “Follow our Instagram page and tag a friend you’ll take with you if you win!” is a very clear example of instructions to follow and criteria for you to check eligibility to win.

Your terms and conditions are the perfect place to outline exactly what criteria your entrants have to meet in order to be eligible.

A fair and equal chance to win

Whether you’re running a game of skill or a game of chance, this rule still applies.

It means that no one comes into the competition with an unfair advantage and you haven’t already decided you’re going to award the prize to your best mate or favourite customer.

Not only is that incredibly unethical and dishonest, but it’s also illegal, so treat every eligible entry fairly.

A reward or incentive (prize)

How many of those ‘Win a MacBook Air!’ competitions do you see and think to yourself ‘I bet no one actually wins those…’?

Surprise! You actually have to give away the prize you advertise, not only because it’s the right (and legal) thing to do, but because it’s also in your best interest.

Not only will trust in your brand increase as you show the happy winner enjoying their prize, but the photos and testimonial of your winner with their prize is excellent social proof that your product or service is as good as you claim it is, helping to boost confidence in your brand – and maybe even sales!

Another ‘genuine’ winner!
Spotted on Unsplash by bruce mars.

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What a competition is not…

Hopefully these will just sound like common sense to you, but you’d be surprised just how many competitions and giveaways we see that break the rules and break their customers’ trust in them.

  • A competition is not an opportunity to gather a whole bunch of email addresses then award the prize to your best mate
  • It’s also not a chance to take, take, take without giving back, so please remember to actually award the prize and tell your audience who the lucky winner is
  • Finally, it is most definitely not a chance to extort money from your entrants. There are strict rules in place that protect entrants from being taken advantage of and the rules apply to your competition too.

Now that you know exactly what a competition is (and what it is now), you’ve got a starting point for mapping out your competition.

If you’re in the planning stages of a competition, start jotting down some ideas around how long you want your competition to last, what you want your entrants to do in order to get an entry and how you’ll pick the winner as well as what you think you may like to offer as a prize. Keep these notes handy as they will come in useful when it’s time to put together your competition rules and terms and conditions.

Still confused about competitions? Why not book in a totally free (that’s free from fluff, free from BS and free from sales pitches) strategy session with our team of giveaway gurus?