Understanding the Difference: Contest Marketing vs. Sweepstakes Marketing with RAVEN5

When it comes to engaging customers and building brand loyalty, contest marketing and sweepstakes marketing are two powerful strategies. But what’s the difference between them? RAVEN5 breaks down these two approaches to help you determine which is best for your brand. This includes international legal requirements as some countries outside of the US and Canada only allow a contest or sweepstake, or none at all.  

What is Sweepstakes Marketing?

Sweepstakes marketing is a promotional strategy where participants enter to win a prize, and winners are selected at random. It’s a game of chance, making it simple and appealing to a broad audience.

What is Contest Marketing?

Contest marketing, on the other hand, involves some level of skill or effort from participants. Entrants must perform a task, such as answering a question, submitting a photo, or creating content, and winners are chosen based on the quality or creativity of their submissions.

Key Differences Between Sweepstakes and Contests

Entry Method

  • Sweepstakes: Entries are typically made through simple actions like filling out a form, following a social media account, or sharing a post. No purchase or significant effort is usually required.
  • Contests: Participants must complete a task or showcase their skills. This could involve submitting a photo, writing an essay, or creating a video.

Winner Selection

  • Sweepstakes: Winners are chosen randomly, often through a drawing. Every entrant has an equal chance of winning.
  • Contests: Winners are selected based on merit, such as creativity, skill, or adherence to the contest theme. A panel of judges or public voting often determines the winner.

 Participant Motivation

  • Sweepstakes: Attracts many entries due to the low barrier to entry and the appeal of winning a prize by chance.
  • Contests: Generally, attracts fewer entries, but those who participate are highly engaged and motivated by the challenge and the opportunity to showcase their talents.

Engagement Level

  • Sweepstakes: Offers a quick and easy way to engage a wide audience. It’s excellent for boosting short-term engagement and gaining new followers or subscribers.
  • Contests: Fosters deeper engagement by encouraging participants to invest time and effort. It’s ideal for building a community and generating high-quality user-generated content.

Why Choose Sweepstakes Marketing with RAVEN5?

RAVEN5 has perfected the art of sweepstakes marketing. Here’s why their approach stands out:

  1. Innovative Campaigns: RAVEN5 designs creative and captivating sweepstakes that grab attention and drive participation.
  2. Comprehensive Management: They handle every aspect, from strategy development to execution, ensuring a seamless experience.
  3. Data-Driven Insights: RAVEN5 uses data to continuously improve their strategies, ensuring maximum impact and ROI.
  4. Legal Expertise: Sweepstakes come with legal requirements, and RAVEN5 ensures full compliance with all regulations, protecting both the brand and participants.

Why Choose Contest Marketing?

Contests can also be a powerful tool, especially for brands looking to generate user-generated content or engage deeply with their audience. They are excellent for:

  • Showcasing Creativity: Contests allow participants to express their creativity, which can lead to high-quality content that can be used in marketing.
  • Building Community: By encouraging participants to engage deeply with the brand, contests help build a loyal community.
  • Generating Buzz: A well-executed contest can create significant buzz and visibility for a brand, especially if it goes viral.

Case Studies: Sweepstakes vs. Contests

To illustrate the power of contests and sweepstakes marketing, let’s look at a few real-world examples.

Sweepstakes Success Stories

To promote the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series in Washington, DC, United conducted a 2-day sweepstakes during the event. The prizes included a grand prize of two United Airlines international round-trip travel certificates and four sets of two domestic round-trip travel certificates. Participants could enter the sweepstakes in person at the event using iPads or by scanning QR codes on posters and entering via their mobile devices.

To reward contractors who use LEDVANCE products and motivate them to choose LEDVANCE for their projects, LEDVANCE conducted a custom bilingual loyalty sweepstakes. The program offered participants the chance to win various prizes, including gift cards, YETI coolers, and LEDVANCE work lights.


To launch DJ Khaled’s new furniture line, “We The Best Home,” at Grand Furniture, a custom sweepstakes was created, offering participants the chance to win a $2,500 shopping spree.

Contest Success Stories

The Giving Joy Contest is a nomination-based teacher appreciation program organized by Norwegian Cruise Line. In 2022 alone the contest produced 2.4 million event counts with 338,000 new users. Building on the success and enthusiasm of the previous Giving Joy contests in 2019, 2021, and 2022, this 5-week campaign honored deserving educators across the U.S. and Canada by leveraging the name of the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Norwegian Joy. Since its inception in 2019, the Giving Joy program has awarded 250 educators with once-in-a-lifetime vacations.

Universal and Tampico Beverages initiated a user-generated content (UGC) campaign to promote the new Puss In Boots movie. This campaign included weekly challenges such as sending thank you cards or baking cakes, with participants submitting photos and descriptions of their completed tasks.

Barilla Canada launched a month-long contest starting on Valentine’s Day to enhance visibility for their products. Participants could spin a wheel daily for a chance to win a “SIGN OF LOVE” prize pack instantly. Additional entries were available for sharing and for posting photos on Instagram of oneself and loved ones enjoying a Barilla pasta dish, using the hashtag #BarillaASignofLove and tagging @BarillaCanada.

Combining Both Strategies

For many brands, the best approach might be to combine both sweepstakes and contests. This allows them to reap the benefits of both strategies:

  • Sweepstakes for broad engagement and quick results.
  • Contests for deep engagement and high-quality content.

FAQs about Sweepstakes and Contest Marketing

Q: Can sweepstakes and contests be run simultaneously?
A: Absolutely! Combining both can maximize engagement and reach, leveraging the strengths of each approach. In some countries, such as Canada, a sweepstakes cannot be run without including a skill requirement as this satisfies the law, and instead makes it a contest or a game of skill. The simplest approach is often a skill-testing math equation.  

Q: How can I ensure my sweepstakes or contest complies with legal regulations?
A: Partnering with experts like RAVEN5 can help ensure all legal requirements are met, including legal rules, eligibility criteria, winner verification, state registration and bonds, as well as IRS filings.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the differences between sweepstakes marketing and contest marketing is crucial for choosing the right strategy for your brand. Sweepstakes are great for broad engagement and quick wins, while contests offer deeper engagement and the creation of valuable user-generated content. RAVEN5’s expertise in sweepstakes marketing can help you navigate these options and implement campaigns that drive significant results.

Ready to elevate your marketing strategy with sweepstakes or contests? Partner with RAVEN5 and take your marketing efforts to the next level!

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