Increasing the Odds

College Marketing
College marketing event contest

5 tips for developing a successful sweepstakes or contest

Youth marketers want college kids to interact with their brand, to participate in something with them, and, ultimately, become a lifelong customer. What usually follows is a plan to build a contest around the chance to win a worthwhile prize by doing this, that, and the other. Brands hope that dangling a “cool” enough carrot in front of college kids will result in tons of them jumping through hoops for a chance to win it. What’s often lost in the planning process are some important considerations for increasing your own odds for success and participation.

Remove the hurdles. Want to know how to get zero entries for your next sweepstakes or contest promotion? Ask people to sell out five of their “closest” friends’ names and emails. Ask entrants to commit to a trial subscription that they can cancel at any time. Or, how about this one: Ask them to sit through a seminar. Most customers are inherently lazy when it comes to entering contests. It’s not wrong to want them to perform an action to participate or earn their entry; just make sure the request is reasonable for what they might win. Also, give them multiple ways to enter.

Make your prize attainable. Sometimes, an offer may seem too good to be true. If your contest prize is too grandiose, it may be ignored. People think, “I’ll never win this, so why bother?”  Youth are fickle when it comes to contests and ploys for their attention. A good strategy is reallocate the budget for one large prize into groups of smaller, more attainable prizes. For college students, for instance, you could make your contest more localized (i.e., one prize per campus) to give the impression that they are in closer proximity to your brand and have better odds of winning.

Make your prizes remarkable. The best things to win are the things you can’t go and buy. Think about offering something one-of-a-kind that only you can provide or using your power to arrange the experience of a lifetime. Think big. College kids won’t get excited about the chance to win an iPod or free movie tickets.  They would, however, do unthinkable things to have lunch with Steve Jobs or play a bit part in a real Hollywood movie.

Keep it on the up and up Don’t get cute with your terms, privacy statement, deadlines and restrictions. Be honest and up front about what you are doing, and announce your winner(s) in a very public way on the date you say you will. People want to know if they won, who won, etc.  Let them know. This transparency helps ensure that you didn’t hand select your cousin’s kid as the winner.

Promote it! A contest can rarely stand on its own. Unless the grand prize is completely unique it’s not going to “go viral.” Cultivating participation will take some advertising budget to get the word out. Remember, your passionate fans may not want to spread the word about your contest as a strategy to boost their odds of winning.

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About Jason Bakker

Jason Bakker is a native Minnesotan and has been working in the area of youth marketing for nearly a decade. He currently works with Minneapolis based Campus Media Group as the Director of Marketing and is responsible for following trends in the ever-changing landscape of youth culture and media usage, and for consulting advertising agency and national brand professionals on how to develop integrated marketing programs that reach college youth.