The difference between a contest vs. sweepstakes

When thinking about online promotions, the first thing that comes to of mind is a sweepstakes or contest. However, these terms can easily get confused with one another, especially across the borders.

What most Americans would refer to as a sweepstakes, many Canadians would simply call a contest. Take note that both of these terms do have specific definitions. But regardless of what they are called, the most typically run promotion is actually a sweepstakes.

What is a sweepstakes?

It is defined as a promotional drawing in which prizes are given out at no charge to the participants. Winners are selected at random. A sweepstakes awards winners through random draw; winners are determined based purely on chance.

What is a contest?

It’s defined as an event in which people try to win by doing something better than others. Winners will be chosen or judged based on their submission or performance. A contest rewards skill; such as running an interactive user-generated content contests: the user will upload a photo, video, audio (music) or text (essay) to the contest entry form. Winners are determined based on a judging or voting round (or both rounds combined). It may also be utilized for product testing, award shows, crowd-sourcing initiatives and other creative community-based projects.

No purchase necessary

There are many contests and sweepstakes that may imply or require that you make a purchase of a product in order to enter. The problem with this is that if you do not allow anyone to enter without having to make a purchase then you are essentially running a lottery. Since lotteries have different laws that govern them and in most cases make them illegal you need to avoid this. Many brands include the No Purchase Necessary option which includes an Alternative Method of Entry, where one can either mail in a form, write a short essay or even fill out an entirely separate form online. By doing so, the entrant is entitled to an entry without making a purchase, and this ensures that your contest or sweepstakes does not become an illegal lottery.