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Direct Response Marketing

Net Gains: Sweepstakes Marketing a Winner for Brands and Consumers Alike

1 Apr, 2011 By: Marla Altberg Response

Chances are every time you log on to check your E-mail or visit your Facebook page, you’re hit with it — “A Chance to Win!” Be it an iPad, an HDTV or even a million bucks, you just can’t avoid the barrage of sweepstakes and contests out there today. But while they may be an inconvenience — even an annoyance — they’re making your fellow marketers mega-bucks as lead-generation tools, database enhancers and viral buzz.

Take the case of ThinkDirect Marketing Group. Its “Strike It Rich Sweepstakes” has been making someone a millionaire every other year for more than a decade. (Just look at how happy Hazel is down there!) The company uses the attraction of a life-changing grand prize to fuel inbound telemarketing to highly trained operators who sell magazine subscription plans and more. Recently, ThinkDirect expanded its reach to the Web as well at Here, a database is collected to be followed by an E-mail blast offering a smaller, more targeted prize.

According to Julie Christman, the company’s director of marketing, sweepstakes are by far the highest performing tools to generate leads. She adds, “ThinkDirect is willing to partner with other companies looking to sell products or services in a call center environment without the overhead of staffing. Fortunately the partner benefits from the sweepstakes without any additional cost.”

Sweepstakes work on a smaller scale, too — much smaller. In fact, Ellery Homestyles’ Sound Asleep™ Comfort Pillow is the new rest stop for social media explorers. The brand ran a very successful sweepstakes in fourth-quarter 2010 that grew its Facebook fan base 20-fold by offering a weekly prize of an iPod Nano plus one of its pillows. A small prize — but with amazing results.

The company hoped to repeat it with a Valentine’s Day execution. Cheryl Morse, director of digital commerce and marketing, says, “We firmly believe that sweepstakes executed on Facebook are a great way to grow and engage your fan base. This, in conjunction with a targeted blog outreach and a PPC Facebook ad, are sure to provide steady fan growth and continued engagement over time. Keep in mind these require dedicated staff to make it work.”

How true those words of wisdom are! There are a myriad of details involved in running a successful, and more importantly, legal sweepstakes or contest. It is critical to have an ironclad set of official rules. These define the eligibility, the prize terms, what the consumer must do to enter and what your obligations are as the sponsor to fulfill.

Next you must consider the prize structure. What can you afford? What is going to attract the right audience to buy what you are selling? While large amounts of money cast the widest net, more focused prizes that tie into your product or service and appeal to the buyer demographics frequently result in a better quality response, albeit not as large in quantity.

Once you’ve decided to offer a prize structure that exceeds $5,000 in value, you have state registrations and surety bonds to tackle. Not to mention the back-end tasks to finish once it’s over: select the winners, fulfill the prizes, issue tax forms and then some. You may find your head spinning well before happy hour.

But you don’t have to go it alone. Hire a reputable sweepstakes administration agency or specialty law firm to handle the details; you’ll be busy enough handling the sales growth.


Marla Altberg is president of New York-based Ventura Associates International LLC. She can be reached via phone at (212) 302-8277, ext. 3003, or E-mail at

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