How to ensure your contest or sweepstakes is legal with compliant rules

Many companies of all sizes are focused on bleeding edge, digital firsts, innovative and edgy promotions that can include submission of user-generated-content (UGC), Tweets, Facebook engagement, YouTube submissions, blogging, “viral” marketing and other social networking elements.

However, the marketing professionals who are entrusted to create them are often unaware of the complex legal overlay of the digital world and the potential significant financial repercussions for their company’s failure to comply. Contests and sweepstakes are popular and effective ways for brands to engage with consumers.

Doing so presents numerous regulatory, intellectual property, privacy and other potential liability issues.

What’s required?

Each sweepstakes or contest must include a set of official rules that identify the material terms and conditions that govern the promotion, and various laws provide that they must meet certain requirements. No matter what type of contest, sweepstakes or promotion, the following requirements should be confirmed:

  • Same start and end Dates for all entry methods
  • No payment or purchase to receive or claim a prize
  • Number of prizes and prize descriptions (including average retail value)
  • Eligibility (location, age)
  • Winner selection, clearance and taxes
  • Approvals and risk management
  • Record keeping and winners Lists

No Purchase Necessary 

Avoid breaking the law and creating an illegal lottery by ensuring you have a “No Purchase Necessary” option in your sweepstakes or contest. You can create an online form for entrants to fill out and submit to earn a single entry or a downloadable and fillable PDF form that can be mailed or faxed in. This does not apply to all promotions, but more specifically to those that are open to the public and allow one to earn entries by making purchases.


We can provide a standard set of boilerplate rules that can accommodate just about any contest. However, should you or your legal team require something customized we can facilitate this.

Rules writing and review

  1. Writing of official rules & regulations
  2. Review of rules, legal review of rules
  3. Writing of liability and publicity release affidavits or declaration and release forms
  4. Review of liability and publicity release affidavits or declaration and release forms
  5. Review of creative and all advertising materials (website, print, etc…)

For more information, learn what kind of prizing to giveaway in a contest or sweepstakes. Or, read up on registration and bonding requirements, contest and sweepstakes prize fulfillment, or other contest and sweepstakes marketing services.

Still want more? Check out the following blogs focused on contest marketing:

Where Should I Promote my Contest or Sweepstakes?

Contest Marketing Program

What is a Contest?

Contest Rules – Watch Out

Contests & Sweepstakes Create Content

Want to Run an Online Contest?