Contests Powered By Play

Whether it’s a coupon, a giveaway, a white paper or an app, the competition for consumer attention is only intensifying, leaving marketers with some critical questions. How do you infuse fun into your promotion? How do you differentiate your campaign? How do you deliver against core objectives?

The key to winning this marketing contest might just be… a contest.

Online contests, sweepstakes, and instant-wins are a great way to pull consumers through engagement and drive a specific action. I recommend one of following approaches.

Open Sweepstakes

If your goal is to amass the largest number of people, the Open Sweepstakes is your best bet. Though there’s a certain amount of consumer cynicism attached to sweepstakes, people always sign up, and you can qualify your entries well if you use prizes that are of specific interest to a target demographic. (a client) currently has a promotion live called "As Real As It Gets." Simply by entering their name, email address and date of birth, users have a chance to win a day at Skip Barber's Racing School, Ultrabooks, iRacing subscriptions, and other prizes.

Skills-Based Contests

Skills-based contests area great way to challenge enthusiasts to engage with your brand. If the challenge is compelling and the prize is right, people will do more than show up; they’ll work hard to win.

Intel (a client), for example, recently announced the Intel® Perceptual Computing Challenge, a contest for software developers to create applications that take advantage of Intel‘sPerceptual Computing SDK. With $1 million cash prizes on the line, the developers are going all out.

Open Sweepstakes + Skills-Based Contest

Open Sweepstakes are easy, and skills-based contests are engaging. Combine the two, and you get the best of both worlds.

  • Part 1: Cast a wide net to capture interested parties in a topic or prize
  • Part 2: Engage the set of people in Part 1 with a skills-based contest with their own, more focused call to action and corresponding incentive prize.

Last year, Intel ran a campaign for the launch of its Graphics Performance Analyzer 4.0.  Entrants were originally enticed into an open sweepstakes for great computer hardware.  That same group was then invited to participate in a skills-based contest that required use of Intel’s software tool to submit entries.  Part one gathered the target audience, and part two engaged them with the product.

Gated Sweepstakes

In gated sweepstakes, consumers are required to take an action such as playing a game, watching a video, or answering questions to reach your sweepstakes entry page. Gated sweepstakes don’t just deliver a more engaging consumer experience – they also eliminate the possibility of bots and trollers diluting your pool of leads.

A great example of a gated sweepstakes is Wendy's holiday-themed "And to All a Good Bite." Every day, users are invited to compete against each other to complete a holiday-themed puzzle. The first one to finish gets a gift card for a Mozzarella Chicken Supreme and 100 gift cards to share with their Facebook friends.

Another great example of a gated sweepstakes is Nintendo's Watch Nintendo Video. All users have to do is watch a video on their DS, and they’re entered to win one of Nintendo’s new games. Each video is embedded with key messages and asks users to apply them to their sweepstakes submissions. 

Keep in mind that while these promotions capture more qualified leads, they also tend to reduce the overall number of entrants.


There’s nothing better than instant gratification. With an Instant-win, instead of waiting for a notification to arrive by mail, email or telephone, you find out whether you've won in just a few clicks. The emotional excitement of winning (or losing) keeps consumers coming back.

Green Mountain Coffee has an Instant-Win contest, Perfect Cups Sweeps, which gives users a chance to win K-Cup packs for life simply by logging in and spinning a virtual K-Cup holder, slot-machine style.

Although it takes time, energy, and financial output to run any of these contests, sweepstakes or instant-wins, the more fun you infuse, the more people will choose to engage with your brand again and again.

1 comment about "Contests Powered By Play".
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  1. David Murdico from Supercool Creative, December 29, 2012 at 12:40 p.m.

    Nice breakdown, Stephen!

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