Adventures in Sweepstakes Marketing

There is often a tension between a given entity’s desire to market a sweepstakes in a manner that maximizes the appeal of the promotion, and the marketing restrictions imposed by applicable law and/or the rules of the media used to promote the contest.  For example, as discussed on this blog, there are certain restrictions that apply to the use of consumer endorsements and testimonials in connection with a contest’s entry/prize awarding functionality.  Further, social media networks, such as FacebookTwitter and Pinterest, impose their own prohibitions with respect to the use of certain features associated with their respective venues, such as sweepstakes-related “likes,” “mentions” or “follows.”

In addition, there is an overarching obligation to refrain from any deceptive marketing practices in connection with sweepstakes-related advertising.  In fact, sweepstakes operators must go above and beyond abstaining from actively deceiving the public, and must ensure that key aspects of their contests are prominently disclosed on the websites and marketing material associated with their respective sweepstakes promotions.

Sweepstakes Marketing: Even the Odds

Last week, the Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit issued an opinion holding that the Boy Scouts of America failed to comply with the advertising industry’s self-regulatory guidelines in connection with magazine advertisements and the website utilized to operate the sweepstakes itself.

The BBB faulted the Boy Scouts for failing to prominently disclose the odds associated with winning the subject sweepstakes on the promotion website.  While the odds were disclosed in the sweepstakes rules, that disclosure (which required entrants to click through to an additional page) alone was insufficient to satisfy industry standards.  According to the BBB:

“It is the promotional or advertising copy about entering the sweepstakes that entices children to enter and it is near such copy that the chances of winning and the prizes must be clearly explained.”

The BBB also took issue with features of the magazine advertisements used to promote the Boy Scouts’ sweepstakes.  While the BBB acknowledged that the ads contained the phrase, “many will enter, one will win,” those words were only included at the bottom of the ad copy, in very fine print.  According to the BBB, disclosures of such importance need to be made more prominently in terms of location on the page, and font/type used.

Sweepstakes Marketing: Not Just the Fine Print

As illustrated above, when conducting a sweepstakes promotion, it is not enough to simply market the contest free of deception.  Sweepstakes operators must also include prominent disclosures detailing key features of their contests in order to ensure that consumers have easy, ready access to that important information.

Businesses that do not ensure that their sweepstakes marketing efforts contain all of the disclosures required by law, self-regulatory bodies and social media websites, respectively, may face regulatory investigation and/or other legal action.  As such, it is recommended that sweepstakes sponsors retain qualified legal counsel to assist in planning and implementing the marketing of any promotion, contest or sweepstakes.