August 6, 2020 Vanessa Niragira
Have you been thinking about running a contest or sweepstakes for your brand? Have you ever thought that a person would turn down a free prize? Well in case you’re wondering if it’s even true, as The World’s First Sweepstakes Marketing Agency we can attest that yes, it is. Such an odd concept, right? I’m sure you must be wondering how that could even happen, don’t worry we’ll share our expertise!
It’s easy to think that people just have decided to waste your time, but that may not always be the case! In this scenario, you’ve contacted someone and they just will not get back to you! You’ve called, emailed, and nothing! While it is frustrating, let’s talk about the many things that could’ve happened: a vacation, a personal or family emergency, a military obligation, or perhaps a disability prevented them from claiming their prize.
Now, this is rare but let’s talk about an awkward situation where a customer doesn’t want the prize or doesn’t like the process in which they would receive the prize. This sounds weird, right? Why enter your information for a chance to win something that you don’t even want? No one knows, and again it’s rare but is a possibility.
A couple of years ago we ran a sweepstakes for a Credit Union client, the grand prize was season tickets to the Houston Astros! We conducted the random drawing and reached out to the winner, only to have him turn down the prize! The winner did not want to be responsible for the tax obligation on the prize, as the winner resided in the US. As a reminder, prize winners residing in Canada are lucky enough to not be responsible for taxes on prize winnings, whereas prize winners residing in the US must pay income tax on any prize valued at over $600 USD. For more information check out our blog post: Do you have to pay tax on prizes?.
You could be baffled right now, but don’t worry as with most cases there are ways you can prevent the situation. First and foremost you can move on to a secondary or tertiary winner (we refer to these as “alternate winners”) if you don’t receive a response after contacting the winner so many times. The rules and regulations should spell out exactly how long the winner has to respond to the outreach, and how long they have to complete and return a liability and release form.
Once the deadline is up and you have been unable to get in touch with the winner, you’ll have to move on and start the process with an alternate winner to try to award them the prize instead. It may seem like a bit of a win to not have to give away anything and to keep the prize for another contest or sweepstakes, and while this would be considered legal (if written into the Official Rules) that’s not necessarily the case. Remember that the reason behind a sweepstakes or contest promotion is to stay top of mind with your consumers and have a memorable and positive experience with a potential or current customer. Having no winner, in the end, won’t do much good except maybe anger the other people who participated and later find out that no prize was ever awarded.
Another preventative measure you can take is to email your customers a couple of days prior to the closing date of your contest or sweepstakes to tell them to keep an eye out on their emails and to double-check their junk mail. You could also have a small prize set off to the side in the event that something terrible happened to the original winner that hindered them from claiming their original prize; this is good PR for your brand and leaves your consumers thinking that your brand truly cares about them! Lastly, in regards to the worst-case scenario, you could either work with the consumer to come to an agreement to award them with a substitute prize, a cash prize, or give them the option to formally decline.
As a reminder when you DO find a winner to accept your prize, don’t forget to publicize it on your available channels – social, email, the contest site even. It further engrains your legitimacy as a brand (depending on your size) and develops a history for future promotions so that folks are more inclined to participate!
Want to know more about Contests and Sweepstakes? Click Using Contests and Sweepstakes to Drive Engagement and Contest and Sweepstakes Interesting Facts for more information!
Vanessa Niragira, Oakville, Ontario, July 2020