local media insider
Show me the money

Top selling Facebook contest ideas for 16 business categories

Use this guide to sell a Facebook contest to any local business



Show me the money? Sales of Facebook contests range from $5000 to $15,000 in mid-sized markets and up to $25,000 in large markets; and some sales teams run up to  seven contests for merchants concurrently.  This is a red hot, in demand category. 

Below is a list of great contest ideas to use for any industry or objective. We surveyed more than 100 successful contests and intereviewed Todd Gilbert, Director of User Experience at Second Street Media,  to find "what to sell to whom"  and which contests work best for each objective. A cheat sheet of ideas for selling contest to each of 16 business categories is at the bottom of this report. See also "Top 21 Tactics for increasing contest revenues." 

Keep in mind that media use contesting to grow their own audience, as well as to increase incremental revenues. Some contests accomplish both; however, be clear as to which objective is the priority. If media audience-building is the top goal, the merchant will typically pay less cash but bring more of its own promotions and prizes to the table. 

This list includes  two basic kinds of contests merchants buy:  Sponsorships of a contest produced by the media, and contests created specifically for the merchant on its own home page in which the media is merely a promotional partner.

Running contests on the merchants Facebook page, instead of a co-brand, also makes it easier to run numerous contests concurrently (one television uses six of its seven tabs to promote sweepstakes it sold to merchants).  

Merchants, also have a variety of objectives to take into account when designing a contest: Brand exposure, differentiation, a positive community presence, a source of direct leads,  fan-building, fan engagement or even directing customers to use online-services. However most are primariliy interested  in fan-building or generating leads and conversions. 

Here's is a list of types of contests that merchants buy, both merchant-centered and sponsorships of media contests:

*Simple Sweepstakes - Sweepstakes are the basic default merchant-centered contest that works best for most businesses.  They are simple to create and enter, produce highly targeted leads, are easy to socialize, and gain the most entrants, fans and emails.  

 Gilbert says, "I can make an argument for almost any vertical that sweepstakes give the highest bang for your buck."

Sweepstakes use the merchants own products and services as the giveaway, creating a targeted lead that can be remarketed via coupons or other mechanisms. Sweepstakes are also simple to enter  because they don't require the visitor to "do anything else,"  thus creating the highest number of respondents.

"Social Boost" created by Second Street - or similar software via other contest vendors - also allows users to enter a second time when they share the contest. Social Boost  also can send entrants a new link daily to "share" creating a reminder. Typically, these tactics increase entrants by by 25%. 

"Previously, sweepstakes entrants had a disincentive to share," since each new person who entered lowered the first entrant's chance of winning.

"Now each person they share with who enters increases their chances because they have one more name in the hat," Gilbert says. "It has turned the idea of sweepstakes on its head." This kind of sharing is only possible in a sweepstakes, unlike a creative contest where winners are selected based on content. 

The down-side of sweepstakes is that engagement - meaured by return visits - is not as high as some other types of contests, such as makeovers and creative contests that rely on multiple voting.  They are also typically not as soft news-worthy, for mentions in on-air broadcats.

*Make-Overs and Creative contests - Like sweepstakes make-overs and creative contests  produce targeted leads that can be remarketed with coupons.  A typical contest is to send in recipe  for a restaurant, or pizza;  write an essay about why you want a backyard makeover, etc. These can be designed around the merchant and create higher engagment,  content for the Facebook page and soft news opportunities.

Keep in mind, however, that "Anything you ask an entrant to do lowers response.  So creative contests are more complicated to put together than a simple sweepstakes, and will have lower numbers of entrants," Gilbert says. "But they have high engagement, return visitors and sharing. You can set up so voting is once a day, or up to ten times a day, to multiple visits per user and see huge numbers of page views."

*Accumulative and/or  everybody wins - In these merchant-centered contests, every new fan wins  and/or a selected number wins a bigger prize when the contest is triggered by a level of fans. This is a great contest for merchants who are building fans and want to engage and convert  them by giving away coupons or other "thank you" items to everyone who participates.

*Mega-sweepstakes -  Unlike a simple sweepstakes, mega-sweepstakes are more likely to be co-branded, equal-partnership audience builders, with the media putting up its promotional assets and fan base, and the advertiser bringing its own fans and a giveaway , so that both sides build large numers of opt-ins or fans. Their may be no cash involved in these campaigns (an exception is auto dealerships which give away a car as part of a major campaign; Second Street is seeing a number of these high-value giveaways as part of larger ad campaigns). 

*Photo contests (babies and pets, etc.) - These older-style media mega-contests are typically sold on a sponsorship model, with little control  by the merchant.These contests are especially attractive to more brand-oriented institutional buyers with promotional budgets such as big box retail and hospitals who are targeting a female demographic. 

*Photo and essay -  Like the photo contest, adding an essay requirement can create some great testimonials, but will also lower response, so it's important to find out what the merchant's priority is. Aa an example, when a Sarah Lee photo contest added an essay,  "What does Sarah Lee mean to you?," entrants dropped considerably. In general, Gilbert advises to ask for as little information as possible, as every requirement drops users - even asking for a first name or an address.

*Pre-set national sports contests (these are typically only partially customizable) and local offshoots.  These are pre-packaged,  media contests that target a male audience. Auto and fast food are the top buyers, home appliances have also donated big screen TV's as prizes in return for participating. Dual-fan-gating or requiring an email opt-in are ways to build audience for the sponsor. Typically sponsors of these contests have very broad audiences, a male demographic and/or a personal or brand interest in sports.

*Multiple sponsor contests -  Some media have experimented successfully with sports contests that have multiple sponsors who participate in a VIP picks progam.  The advantage to the media is to be able to sign up several merchants at a smaller price than if they purchased a complete contest on their own. The total revenues, however, are larger when the contest is sold this way.  A multiple sponsor contest with $290 per week, against 22 weeks, adds up to six figures (last example below). 

*Vertical best of contests, which can also be reconfigured as a "_____________of the Year."  This is another version of the multiple sponsor contest. The "nominees" can be sponsors and this works best as an informal or even humorous contest rather than a deadliest serious editorial, reader's pick. Voters will typically be allowed to vote once a day, for example. Great for acquiring multiple sponsors on packages, and requires involvement from the social media and sales manager. 

So those are the ideas to work with.  Here are contests for 16 business categories that merchants have purchased from local media around the country:

1. Apartments

There are a number of ideas for contests that build a list of renters ("Why I need a new apartment"  and "Worst roomate" are a couple we've seen").  However, the ultimate sweepstakes is "Live rent free for a year."

Here's an example that generated an incredible 420,000 votes; and 1,000 potential leads both for the apartment rentals and for a furniture company. Cox-owned  WPRO-FV in Riverside, RI created  this "Live rent free" contest:

This kind of sweepstakes can be either an audience builder, with the apartment recieving trade in return, or a way to generate some activity if a large complex is not renting fast enough. Other ideas: every one who doesn't win but also rents gets a flat screen TV, or $500 worth of furniture from the co-sponsor. Keep in mind that the value of a rental may make this investment well worthwhile. 

2. Art stores

A simple sweepstakes for $500 in art supplies is an easy way for art stores to build a list of people who consume art supplies;  be sure they give a coupon to the "non-winners" who have fanned the page, or entered the opt-in. If a  store plans to offer less - say, only $100 in supplies - make this a weekly or monthly give-away, and use a photo of the winner - with a piece of their art if possible - for Facebook updates. 

For a more creative approach,  Vita.mn, the online entertainment guide of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, created a contest sponsored  by an art store, in which the artist winner was commissioned to paint a mural on the outward-facing wall of a local club.

The  contest included submitting "a sketch proposal (crafted to size comparable with 10’hx20’w which is the width of available space for the mural) along with their personal information and vision statement."  Besides a chance at local fame, the winner got $500 cash and $500 from an art store. Supplies for the mural were also donated.

Other ideas: Submit a drawing on a theme  etc. to be voted on and auctioned off at an artists reception, which could be in conjunction with another event or charity. Design a poster for an event or entertainer to win tickets. Submit artwork that will appear in a "school calendar" with all the important school days marked - especially good for art stores that also rely on selling back-to-school supplies. Keep in mind that any requirement lowers response, a trade off against building engagement. Talk to your merchant; most want the most fans and leads, so a simple give away is usually the best choice. 

3. Auto

The auto industry loves contests. Like the fast food industry, auto dealers are big sponsors of sports contests. Brands we saw during this survey included  Honda, Toyota, Suzuki and Chevrolet as well as pre-owned lots. If you are not running sports contests, you may want to consult your local car dealer for their interest level. Here are some other contests auto dealers and manufacturers are investing in: 

- Auto giveaways

A surprising number of  manafacturers are running promotions to "Give away" a car and advertising. The Freedom Interactive's Orange County Register secured Honda corporate - located in the area - as a sponsor for a contest to promote app downloadsHonda was interested in building an e-mail database.  The  contest prize for everyone who dowloaded was a free Honda  Insight. The cost of the car was included in the trade portion of the deal, which also included cash. 

The media also promoted heavily;  two months in print, rack cards, online ads an a banner on the app itself. Userscould also "text to download" the app. So in addition to cash, the register picked up resulted in more than 15,000 app downloads, 10,000 entries and 2,000 unique email names. 

Here's a Fiat Giveaway co-promoted by ABC15 Arizona. The overall campaign was a five figure revenue deal, and produced 3000 likes for Fiat, a 700% increase in fans. 

Also link to a Cadillac Giveaway, that won one of the three "best big giveaways" from Second Street Media here. 

- The car is the star photo contest

This contest in Kansas City is an example of a photo contest tweaked to support the advertiser - in this case a large auto show.  The photos needed to include a family car, and resulted in 99,443 page views, 855 registered, 1000 votes.

We like the idea of photo contests with specific brands of cars - a great way to engage BMW or Mercedies or Prius owners, even ones with pre-owned vehicles who may trade up. 

- Weekly $100 giveaway

Lee Enterprises created  the top tabs in the custom Facebook page for Bommarito Automotive Group, and included  a weekly give-away with winners also announced as news updates (although not notified directly via Facebook which is prohibited). 

Other ideas from around the country:  Ugliest truck photo contest and Virtual Car Show (with visitors voting)

Note that in the motorcyle category, HarleyDavidson  has tested both deals and contests. They found a key element is significant enough to make some kind of purchase in the Harley store - hence $500 - without needing to giveaway a bike. Here's the screen shot:

Some auto dealers also have expensive merchandise (Mercedies, BMW, Cadillac for example all have shops for branded key rings, clothing and gear inside the dealership) for sweepstakes that can attact current owners and fans of the brand. 

4. Bars and Beer

A great contest in this category is a "best of" or  "Bartender of the Year" contest. The tiny Pottsmerc.com used this contest to attract a younger demographic and entice local bars to advertise.  They launched the contest on the "biggest drinking night of the year,"  the night before Thanksgiving through December 20.

Each bar received branding on the contest's  promotional ads. The contest page showed each nominated bartender's profile, including their favorite drink, how long they worked there, and a 30 second video bio, created by sales reps with Flip cameras, and edited by a third party, Affinity (here are tips on training sales reps to shoot video in the field).  Readers "dedicated to a bar" as well as the bartenders did a lot of Facebook posting. "It kind of morphed ito this network. We planted the seed and it took off from there and just grew.  The contest  had a "multiple sponsors" with a dozen bars at a small fee of $200 each. 

The winner, who was one of the most active social networkers, received a 3x4 vinyl banner to display at the location, and a trophy, in addition to bragging rights. In some city's where bars won't sponsor the contest, there may be plenty of money  from alchohol sponsors. 

Besides  $6000 in new revenues, the contest generated  2000 registered voters in two weeks; people who are now on the e-mail database to be used in other promotions. The contest is now  an annual event. 

Bars also sponsor sports contests, and have held  "name our new martini" and  martini recipe contests. Bars are often sponsoring sports contest. One  bar promoted a weekly "The party's at..." as part of a sponsorship package. 

Re video: Requiring video significantly reduces the number of participants - MUCH more than photos. In fact, asking for video has killed a few contests, so be selective about requiring video and have a great reason to do so. In this case, the video was not part of an open "call for videos" but rather produced by the media for its sponsoring bars, a better choice. 

Beer companies remain sponsors of major sports contests on Facebook. 

5. Beauty and cosmetic

Beauty and cosmetic companies companies are always interested in promotions. A sweepstakes has to have a valuable prize, such as hair styles for a year, or a $2000 procedure.  Style make-overs  are also much easier  to produce than home makeovers (no sod or construction involved). 

Here is an essay oriented  Mother's Day Makeover Contest from KCTV in Kansas City :

"Do you have a mother or know of a mom that deserves something special this Mother's Day?"

The contest asks for a 100 word  letter and the winner gets a makeover from The Salon and dinner for two at a local restaurant.

The Orange County Register's  created a multi-sponsor  "New You Makeover" contest for its blog, Style Binge.  The blog gave away a consultation with the Register's fashion writers, $100 cash card for clothing; $700 gift card and consultation with Alexis Bellino, cast member of “The Real Housewives of Orange County;” a gift from  CosmetiCare in Newport Beach; a 120-minuteShiatsu massage from Raffine; a hair cut, color and gift basket from another salon; a make-up consultation package ($400 value) from Berit in Laguna Beach, and a $2,000 gift card sponsored by The Simple Tooth, a dentist. The only down-side to having so many merchants involved is that it's hard to create a lot of value - ie leads and fan-building - for all of them. 

For top dollar, focus on high ROI advertisers such as cosmetic dentists, dermatologists, lazik and body skulpting. The  5News Smile Makeover contest last winter, had a dentist  as a single sponsor. They promoted "We teamed up to give one lucky person a new smile just in time for the new year! Do you know someone in need of cosmetic dentistry? Someone who spends their time helping and doing for others? ..."

Of all the invasive procedures, dentistry that involves whitening and some veneers has a broad market, high ROI and thus creates a valuable database. 

Another take is to have  salons create the makeovers - and let readers vote. The Pitch launched a new magazine, Her Kansas City,  with a “Make Me Over” contest.   Eight local salons each gave a makeover to one contestant.  Seven sponsors - a fitness program membership, personal stylist,  lingerie boutique, etc. -  bought sponsorship packages. By promoting the contest on their website, in print – both with The Pitch & Her Kansas City – through email marketing and social networking, the magazine was able to drive nearly 1,000 players to the month-long contest generating 10,000 votes from 937 players, and buildng  400 new fans. 

6. Big Box Retail

Big Box retail has a promotional budget in many cases and we are seeing them show up as sponsors of a variety of contests - most often female-oriented kids contests and male-oriented sports contests.  

Macy's sponsored the  Beautiful Babies of Summer, sold by KWTU-TV Salt Lake City.  This  mega-contest has 1789 entries, 16881 registerse users, 81,506 votes and  2.5 million page views, aimed at women. Since baby photo contests are typically some of the largest, it fits Macy's interest in market share as well.

Another big box retailer, Walmart, was the presenting sponsor of  the Daily Advocate's Back to School Coloring contest in Greenville Ohio: 

Walmart also sponsored this local baby photo contest  with co-op dollars from a product, Baby Groumet. 

Three malls and outlets in San Diego  teamed up with the Tribune  for a $500 weekly give-away. The Tribune's objective was to use the sweepstakes to drive their Daily Deal opt-in list, so the promotion was entirely monetized by future daily deal sales.  Every week during the holidays, the Tribune gave away a  $500 gift card to someone who opted in to the daily deal. The retailer provided the gift cards at no charge in return for the promotion;  they could also  send a "Thank you" discount coupon to non-winners, as a way to convert them into new consumers. This initiative resulted in 1900 new opt-ins -  Note that the revenue from this contest comes from the daily deal program - not from the sponsor - but does drive revenues. 


Similarily, JN.com convinced one of its local shopping outlets, Jersey Gardens, to sponsor a clothing makeover that involved a consultation followed by a shopping spree through the outlet. 

Other big retailers, Best Buy and GoodWill,  sponsored the Ultimate Packers Fan contest in Greenbay; big appliance stores often provide wide screen televisions for sports contest (Big TV Screen Contest) or simple sweepstakes.  PC Richards has also run a Pro-football contest on its own site; in this case it's a great opportunity to sell the promotional campaign, without needing to create the contest. 

7. Casinos and lotteries

Who better to but a sweepstakes promotion than a casino? KDND-FM, Sacramento, Ca provided a simple sweepstakes for Jackson Rancheria Casino. The casino's main objective was increasing social media engagment with fans - and getting them back into the casino.  On-air and online ads to "like" the Facebook page to win $500 in slot play, plus a delux room overnight stay,  resulted in a 30% growth in likes, 430 new e-mails.

Another success is HoChunk Casino which originally bought a "Get it Social Package," from the Quad City Times, including a contest with prizes triggered by reaching new levels of fans, keeping them engaged and coming back in.

Here is the  custom page with a flashier look, timeline, photo galleries and big central image of the casino: 

The on-going promotion lets fans know that they will recieve $10 in "Rewards play,"  a form of gaming chips, if the company reaches its next level of fans, plus $250 in Rewards Play to five fans.  HoChunk started the promotion with a giveaway at 100 fans, then 500, then 750 and finally 1,000 which they reach in the spring of 2012. (By using Shoutlet.com's custom app) all of the content could be written in advance, and triggered as each level was reached.

Then updates are posted on the from of the wall, keeping fans engaged.   


As soon as we get to 500 fans of this page, we will be giving away $250 in Rewards Play to not just 1, but to 5 of you!!! Let's make this happen quick. Tell your friends, family, neighbors, and even people you have never talked to before that we are itching to give away some money. All they have to do is "Like" our Facebook page. More details on the drawing will come once we get to the 500 level. Thank you for playing at Ho-Chunk Gaming- Madison!

Don't forget...

Like casinos, lotteries are actually a natural fit for contests. The New Mexico Lottery wanted a way to diver more traffic to its lottery site, and KOB-TV KOB-TV in Albuquerque, NM came up with the "Lucky Dog Contest."  It asks contestants to submit  a "first person" essay from their about "why I am a lucky dog, with a photo to the lottery's site. The contest recieved 4700 entries - all driven to the contest page on the New Mexico Lottery web site to promote lottery particpation. The big prize is $13,000. 

8. Family restaurants

Individual restaurant are typically not big contest purchasers, however a  simple sweepstake (Dinner for a group or for a  year) is a simple way to attract fans while advertising the brand. If the chef gets involved, a recipe contest has also worked well. People send in recipes to have both real chefs and site visitors comment and vote. Winners have their recipe cooked for them and their friends by a real chef at the sponsoring restaurant, and the dish can be served for a month, or a night, at the top restaurant. 

9. Fast food and chain restaurants
Fast food and chain restaurants are top contest purchasers and often (such as Appleby's and Buffalo Wild Wings) create their own contests. Top contests fast food chains sponsor are Free____________for a Year sweepstakes, and sports contests. 
Here are some examples:
a. Free____________for a year

An incredibly  fast way to build a data-base of people who want the fast food product is to create a  Free________for a Year Contest. There are a number of variations on this basic theme: 

- Andy's Frozen Custard sponsored  “Free custard for a year” during back-to-school season to gain 1266 fans of Andy’s Frozen Custard; it was sold and promoted by  KY3TV in Springfild, Ms.

- Harris Pizza combined a recipe contest, "Have a great idea for a new pizza?,"  with the grand prize of "Pizza for a Year."

This contest, sold and produced by Quad-City Times (which also sells Facebook brand page strategy and management as a service, apractice we highly recommend), transformed Harris' marketing. The contest was simple: Submit a recipe for the next specialty pizza that Harris would create. Following the voting period Harris held a reception for the finalists. And the winner got their pizza recipe on menu plus free pizza for a year. Here is a copy of the some of the original promos:

Fans increased ten-fold – and doubled again since then. Today the pizza company has more than 5000 fans, and is adept at using Facebook for remarketing.  Here's an example of the follow-up engagement strategy, also created with the help of Lee-owned Quad-City Times:

- Free pizza for every entrant AND  "Pizza for a year"  

The ultimate pizza mega-contest, was created by Washington Post, partnering with Poppa John's, to offer a free pizza to every contestant who ordered it online. This kind of contest required a major commitment - but no dollars - from the advertiser. 

Papa John's wanted to build an e-mail list and teach customers to order online from its  111 D.C. area locations. The Washington Post Company wanted more opt-ins for its  daily deal program in a highly competitive market where Living Social had its roots. In effect, the Post put on the promotions and  Poppa John's put up the pizza.  No cash changed hands.

The free pizza required online sign-up, and could be delivered for free or picked-up, but not ordered over the phone - hence training people to order online.  A large map of the 111 locations was provided on the promotional page, to help contestants identify the closest one in advance.

The contest was set up  on a daily deal platform, ie people registered as if they were buying a gift certficate, however, no payment was required. The list was scrubbed of list of out-of-area participants who were excluded according to the contest rules.

Then Poppa John generated  individual promo codes for thousands of people who registered, and delivered them in Excel format back to the Post, which merged these into its email list to send promo codes to participants the day after the contest closed (platform provider Second Street actively fascillitated).  Entrants on a Tuesday were able to order Friday (clearly spelled out in the description) and  the double registration allowed Papa John's  so also capture contact information - including e-mails.

The contest went live on a Tuesday morning and by 11:40 a.m., 35,000 people had registered,“That’s when we knew it was going crazy,” said Tim Condon of the Post.  By the time the contest finished on Thursday, three days later, the final tally totaled 122,244 entries - or about 1000 pizza's per store and  the largest single increase in e-mail opt-ins names for the Washingto Post; 60% of the participants were new. 

Note: In restrospect Condon says he would have only done it for one day. " It ws 97,000 after one day, so we didn’t need a three day contest.” He also notes, “If we had to do it again, we’d cap it.”

b. Sports contests

Like "free ________for a year,"   sports contests and events and come in a variety of flavors:

- Full season Football Challenge

Pepsi was the lead sponsor (with Chevy and Buick) of a major all season NFL and TOp 15  football contest at the LIN-owned WLUK television, now Fox11online.com, in Green Bay Appleton.  WLUK generated $25,000 in total advertising over the five month season, from September through January, on Second Street Media's Upickem platform. Here's the basic structure:
These pre-packaged contests are basically plug and play. Players sign in via Facebook to pick winners for each upcoming game, and  a score for the Sunday night game that serves as a tie-breaker. Each correct guess during the regular season earns one point, and games are worth more as the Super Bowl approaches.  They can also have a  link e-mailed to their smart phones to “play on the go"  and receive a  e-mail reminder before the game to make a pick, and after the game to check their rankings. If they refer a friend who signs up, they receive extra points. 

The “Survivor Game” is an additional contest in which players pick “the one team your’re sure will win that week.” If the team wins, the player moves on to the next round. But they can only pick the same team once during the season. Whoever lasts the longest nationally wins a $500 gift certificate to Amazon.com.

Players compete against others from around the country for the grand prize supplied by Second Street, usually a trip to Hawaii, but also have local weekly prizes and a local grand prize.
WLUK gave sponsors got  the ad units within the contest pages,  twice weekly eblasts,   and on-air promotions  incorporated into broadcasts by the  at 5 and 9 p.m.sports anchor. The popular morning news anchors, Pat Petoniak and Rachel Nanek, both play the contest and rib eachother over who is winning or losing at least once a week, reminding viewers to sign-up.

In 2009 there were 937,000 page views.  The second year, when the Packers went to the Superbowl,  sign ups rose to 8976, with 1.3 million page views, accumulative over the five months.
Other  fast food companies sponsoring sports contests include Wendy'sHero's Pizza (Play the Pizza Play-offs), PopEyes,  Buffalo Wild Wings and Taco Bell (Taco Bell Football Fridays). Here's a Win __________for a year, contest  from Buffalo wingers that includes varsity, college and pro - Buffalo Wild Wings has a large enough list to run its own contests without media support, but still partners with broadcast sites.

- Late in the season contests. Still selling fast food chains after the season started? Try this  "Bowls-only contest," which KY3TV sold to Wendy's and  “got in the game” at the end of the season.  Bowls only contests run just three weeks in December for college bowl games. KY3TV earned $5000 - $1000 per month - from online only Bowls contest, by upselling Wendy’s this online coupon promotion.   

- High school sports

High school sports are a popular new category for fast food sponsorships aimed at families.  As an example,  Dairy Queen,  (with Turnpike Chevrolet as the presenting sponsor) was the prize sponsor for WBAZ's high school sports contest. On contest pages and email, they ran a text-opt-in offer: Text DQ to 754324 for a buy-one-get-one-free Blizzard. Not convinced high school sports yields real revenues?  This contest generated five figures in revenues, and 900 entrants. 

Both sponsorships were packaged with on-air advertising for Pro Games on Sundays. Keys to success for this campaign were exclusivity, including all high school in the coverage area (this was more than one hundred), and to beginning sell for next year as soon as season is over.

10.  Events 

Big events typically offer a simple ticket giveaway as part of a larger promotional campaign. However these giveaways can be expanded into larger contests by creating a full travel package,  box seating for a party, tickets to a championship game, etc. Here are examples of some big event partnerships:

-  Major-event cross promote.  ABC15.com in Phoenix partnered with world-series bound Arizona Cardinals and its mega fan-base of 300,000 on a ticket give away that yielded 20,000 new "likes" for both.  The station supplied the promotions, its own fanbase of around 80,000. No money changed hands. 

A big ticket giveaway can also include high profile theater events:

- Combine with a travel package

Below is an example of how  the Toronto sun packaged the Daytona 500 event by including a trip for two, airfare and three nights at a hotel. This could be used strictly as an audience builder - or to build an audience of interested travelers for events and resorts, in combination an ad campaign. Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce, for example, could run a "ski getwaway" contest using the Denver Post as a promotional partner and collect a marketing list for its other winter festivals and events. 

-Win the bosses seats

One creative idea to package a contest is  "Win the bosses seats,"  a Facebook contest created by WISH-TV in Indianapolis. Here's how the seats are promoted:  "The boss is giving away his tickets to EVERY home Colts game this season. These are not the nosebleed seats, we're talking section 143! That's the 20-yard line right behing the Colt's bench." 

- "Name" the mascot.  A creative take that bumped up  several thousand new fans in just three days was the "Name the Rally Squirrel" contest produced by the St. Louis Dispatch. With the Cardinals going to the World Series, fans who "liked" the St. Louis Dispatch got a chance to name the squirrel mascot that ran across the field. The three day contest, generated 3300 sign-ups - and deal optin emails.

opt-in emails

- Vote for the event T-shirt

The Peachtree Road Race partnered with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to create an audience vote on best T-Shirt - followed up with a photo contest for the race. The combined effort generated 109,369 page views by asking fans to select from a gallery of T-shirt designs - and then to enter a best race photo contest.  Note:  Asking entrants to vote for artwork that is already created is MUCH easier - and will get many times more entrants - than a contest to create the artwork. 

- Best photo  of the event

Event-specific photo contests are popping up across the country as a popular way to engage fans and build content for Facebook brand pages. Whether its a  “Fair’s best Picture" from the  Imperial Valley Press, in El Centro, Ca. and "Renaissance Festival Photos" from ABC15 or  "Favorite Fan" voting on a photo of an outragiously dressed fan. These contests help advertisers solve the problem of creating content their page page, and gives the media a reason to cross-post. 

- Everybody wins - and converts

An extra boost to a ticket give away is s to give everyone a discount - and also make them eligible to win. A contest package created by the Herald Times a 27,000 circulation paper in Bloomington, Indiana,  included the contest, 25,000 impressions, an eblast to the Herald Times promotional databaise, two posts on the social media sites,  and a  catfish ad (static on the page even when the viewer scrolls down)  on the Herald times home page. Winners got 4 tickets to the event, and all entrants got $2 off tickets.  The big advantage here for advertisers is that they get the fan list plus conversions fro the $2 off tickets - all trackable.  Note that this example is an event, but also in the amusement park category. 

 Six package sold in eight weeks, resulting in an average of 2085 increase in likes for the advertisers - and a boost in revenues for the media company. 


- Pair events  with Seasonal contests

Some event marketers sponsor contests going on while they are "in town."  Ringling Brothers sponsored the Little Rock Mamas’ Cutest Kids Halloween Costume Contest, run by at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. With such a close demographic match, this is a great opportunity  to use circus tickets and back stage passes as the prize. Cirque De Soleil also buys both sweepstakes and co-promotes, and has used the opt-in to build a text message list.

11. Grocery stores

Grocery stores around the country are sponsoring photo, sweepstakes and recipe contests. Most of these stores  aim for a demographic of young mothers. Dick's Grocery, for example,  teamed up with Macey's on the Salt Lake City photo contest, and Fareway Grocery picked up the tab for Tummy Mummies, a photo/recipe contest for moms to create recipes for kids to eat better - and send in a photo of their children sampling the food.  Because of the publicity around childhood obescity, healthy recipies contests showing up quite a bit. Here's a screen shot of the Tummy Mummies contest: 

The grand prize was a whopper, $5000 in food products  at  Fareway Grocery. The products were provided by co-op partners, who gave enough to the program to award two winners. Plus  five people won $1000, and 30 random winners won $100 in food products each.  Entrants had to send in a recipe and a photo or two minute video, of their children enjoying the healthy snack. If you are interested in this contest, find the rules  here. Facebook updates included the following:

Take a look at these co-op partners who chipped in on providing the prizes (we didn't realize Saralee  or Karo were consdered a good source for a healthy snack):

Another example of a grocery chain who has partnered with a recipe contests is Whole Foods which partnered for a Whole Foods School Lunch Makeover Contest.  Whole Foods is a great company to work with and often has a regional marketing director interested in local alliances and promotions; the best place to start is to have a conversation (be sure to bring a few ideas) with the regional director in your area.

11. Health services 

Only a few hospitals buy contests from media companies. To sell promotions to  hospitals, meet with the key marketer and find out which programs, charities, etc. that the hospital is interested in promoting and work from there. These marketers often have well developed ongoing objectives set by the board of directors, and deep resources of their own. St. Louis, St. John' Mercy Healthcare, for example,  created a  Journey to Wholeness sweepstakes  via Second Street without a media partner. So help hospital expand their current direction and plan to obtain top dollars from contest campaigns.  

An example  of a media partnership is Christus Schumbert Hospital and Health Services, which shares the market with only one other health provider, but has just 20% market share in Shreveport.  They focus specifically on owning market for birthing and prenatal care and building their charitable foundation; it is important to them to be known in the community as a caring organization.

The daily newspaper created a "Gateaux Baby Contest" on the hospital's web site.  The contest selected 13 of baby photos entered to become part of a calendar.  By asking families to pay to vote, the contest also created a charitable element; half of the money from votes goes to the hospital foundation. One year, the money purchased stuffed animals to give patients in the Pediatric units. The other half of the money raised went to the Shreveport Times News in Education program, which is also child-related. 

“People stuff the ballot box. I’ve seen people drop a $5000 check for their baby to be number one. So sometimes it does mean buying the winning baby, but it’s a fundraiser for both of us," the ad director said. With 200,000  votes cast and 600 to 700 babies in the contest, Christus Schumbert considers the contest an integral part of its brand strategy in Shreveport. 

Ironically, we also found a family dentist sponsoring a "Peeps Art Contest," (along with the Ballet and 'Peeps Brand').  Mom's submitted photos of art work made with Easter candy called "Peeps."  We're not sure about the message sent by the dentist, but kids eating candy is certainly a target market! The rules are here. 

12. Home services 

Sweepstakes and makeover contests are increasingly being purchased by the home services categories, although a few male-oriented companies (air duct cleaning, lawn services) also sponsor sports contests. As mentionned earlier, the most bang for the buck are sweepstakes, which can be created for almost any category.  Wondering what kind of contest will work for something as hum-drum as a paint store? Here's a typical example of a simple sweepstakes contest: 

Home services businesses are also buying "Makeover" contests in which they recieve more engagement and onair/print mentions. An example is the Rock Hill Herald's site (serving a 32,000 circulation daily and several weeklies), who found a banking partner, Family Trust,  to support a BackYard Makeover Contest.  The sales staff then rounded up 20 more venders to provide items, and pay  $200 to $300 each.

Each vender had exclusivity to provide items like sod, fountains and landscaping.  Consumers sent in a 150 word essay about why their backyard needs a makeover. After a two week voting period, the winner got a new yard. One of the sponsors, Maui Wowie Smoothies, is also setting up on the winner's new backyard for a party and  giving smoothies away to the neighbors.  

Two more  examples of backyard contests come from CBS 6 News and another from a partnership of FOXCT and the Hartford CourrantIn the latter case, each entrant sent in a photo of a dreary backyard and an paragraph or two about why they deserved a new one. Typically the top stories are about nice people with gut-wrenching personal situations, such as this one:

"Currently there is absolutely NO grass in our backyard and while the dirt and rocks are irritating to play in, the backyard poses a large risk to our nine year old brother, Eli. He was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative eye disorder that affects his vision. He frequently is outside running around but the uneven dirt surface of the yard causes Eli to fall and hurt himself."

It's easy to see how this contest transforms into a community service and has a great soft news hook, especially for a broadcast site, though at least half of these makeovers we found were sponsored by print sites:  Bitchin'kitchen, from WKLH, Milwaukee, Wi; Ugliest Grill, Norfolk Daily News, Norfold, Ne; Ultimate Living Makeover, Journal Pioneer, Summerside, Pa; I need a new roof!, WFTV-TV, Olrando, Fla; Ugliest batchroom Contest, WXAZ-TV, Charleston, WV; Trevi Pool Contest (why we want a new pool), Suburban Newspapers, Ill. 

Because of cost , room makeovers involving construction are typically designed for television and national in scope. However  the, Ferguson Kitchen Contest was produced by a local television station. Essentially, a kitchen remodel outlet, Ferguson Kitchens bought the contest, and then helped the local television station court venders who donated appliances and additional dollars. In 2012 Fergeson Kitchens purchased a "Silly Underdog" sports contest - clearly they like contesting. 

We've also seen home services target a  psychographic via a contest, including a building store which understood that its top market for home renovations was newlyweds and  sponsored a wedding contest. 

13. Home services - Eco-category

As a sidebar to the home services category a number of "green" companies are sponsoring contests, even a few that are not traditionally on the radar for pitching promotions.  Anaheim Public Utilities  partnered with the Electric and Gas Utilities Association (EGUA) created a (2008)  Home Energy Makeover contest that let one homeowner win "up to $50,000 worth of energy efficient upgrades such as a new heating and air conditioning system, upgraded insulation, efficient windows, air sealing, lighting and energy-efficient appliances."  

There are current opportunities with solar, recycling and window companies with co-op dollars attached. These companies are not easy to sell, however, if there are any existing relationships, upselling to a promotion may be found money.

GreenFiber.com insulation sponsored a Color me Green contest for the Norfolk News. Contestants printed a page on line and were instructed to "color it in" creatively, with a variety of age categories. But again, a simple sweepstakes for a "Green Home Makeover" may be the highest value for both the merchants and the media.

A B2B version  of a green contest was created by the Miami Chamber of Commerce with the Office Depot, to create the Office Depot Green Makeover contest offering $4000 in fiurniture, office supplies, technology and a consultation with Yalmaz Siddiqui, directory of Environmental Strategy, Office Depot. It was open only to Chamber Members. 

14. Sex-related

This is one category most local media will decline and also which typically won't work on Facebook. However, there are lots of sponsors, from the San Francisco-based Good Vibrations to the (still Bay-area based) Sedusa Studios. The thing about sex is that it sells. Here are a few ideas:  Best Lips, Best Nude Beach, Best buns, Hottest Sillouette (submitted by photographers, all the viewers need to do is vote). Here are some uni-sex "Best buns" from the San Francisco Bay Guardian (would not work in most markets):

You will need the courage of your convictions for this one...

15. Travel

Like events, travel packages - especially from nearby drivable destinations  - are ideal for simple enter-to-win sweepstakes, and can often involve more than one merchant at the destination:

This Quad-City Times 'Win a Weekend Getaway  package,  above, sold to a variety of nearby destination resorts, and included an  email blast, homepage ad, ROS ad, Facebook contest posted to the  advertisers page. 

Markets that are, or are nearby, tourist destinations such as beach towns, ski resorts, wine country and national parks, have a natural advantage in creating mini-travel contests.  Site visitors are asked to send essays about their least favorite vacations, photos from favorite ones, or "Why I like..."  to win a vacation. 

Here's an example of one created by Black Hills Travel Blog, from the area in South Dakota where Mt. Rushmore is located. Here's their pitch to site visitors to enter their  Vacation Makeover Contest:

"Do you have an epic vacation story you’re willing to share? If so, you could win a free trip to South Dakota’s Black Hills this summer!  The Black Hills visitor industry and Kodak are sponsoring a contest called “Vacation Makeover: Destination Mount Rushmore.” All you have to do is tell us your best vacation tale – it can be funny, touching, adventurous or amusing, and from anywhere at all – and post it with photos or video at the Vacation Makeover website, www.blackhills.travel." Winners get a trip and a Kodak Digital Camera.

The executive director of the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce liked the idea so much, he blogged on it:

"I am also finding out that internet marketing is a rapidly evolving field. It is more than just having a flashy website. It takes innovative ideas, like a “Vacation Makeover” contest to create a buzz about the Black Hills and Hot Springs. The more we reach out through the internet in this digital age, the more we are insuring that the best is yet to come for all of us.

This is a great way to build content and testimonials, but keep in mind that the merchant would get more resonses and fans with a simple sweepstakes.

15. Other categories

While most categories of business are interested in promotions one category worth mentionning is weddings, which attracts not only wedding stores and venues, but also Jewelry stores  and companies who sell to newlyweds (home sales? honeymoon trips?) One contest was to write  "The Perfect Proposal" held by KSLV-TV, Spokane Washington.  

Also in our survey were a number of Tattoo contests, including both best and worst tattoo (winners get a free tatto or fix of the old one) with names like "Check out my ink." 

Some company's main objective is to present an community image as a caring company,  as in this  simple essay contest in which the winner gets  $11,000 and  $60,000 goes to cash for teachers (below). 


16. Creating a Combo contest earns top dollars

Of special note,  The Wichita Eagle created a model that generated $100,000 during the football season. This is the highest incremental revenues we have seen from a single contest.  The contest runs the full 22 weeks of the football season, with Advertiser's as VIP’s picking game results. Each advertiser has a  mugshots on the page next to their weekly scores and current rankings to-date on the contest page (again, this can be created on Second Street's pre-packaged national sports contest) and in print. On the print page, relevant news coverage flows over the top of the section.  This high ego-appeal paid off when sponsors customers tease them about their scores. We see no reason why broadcast can't copy a version of this:

Each of the twelve advertisers gets a package that includes both print and online ads, and pay just $295 per week. Multiply that by  22 weeks, times 12 sponsors and the revenue adds up.

There are two levels of buy in, but no "title sponsor" so all advertisers share  "top billing" during the contest.

The print component of the sponsorship package includes placement on a weekly color double truck promotion that runs inside the sports section. Advertisers chose from two sizes, “Single box,” 2 col x 4” and “Double box,” 2 col x 4.” 

The online contest page – with a unique URL, wepicks.com - also has placements for multiple advertisers. The large 900x300 ad at the top of the home page rotates among sponsors, while a series of smaller 211x125 banner ads link to coupon offers runs down the left side.

The banner ads pop-up to special offer coupons:

To sell the program, Witchita created a “plan book” that included a bullet point reference sheet, mini spec layout of what the double truck looked like with the single box and double box, sales sheet with early bird pricing and the program agreement. 

There are some great ways to package a contest like this with email, Twitter and Facebook; announcing scores. Especially if the winner advertisers  give an offer to customers, "Joe Smith is inviting every over for half-priced burgers so celebrate being at the top of the list while he still can."

Summary and cheat sheet

For a summary of 21 tactics to increase contest revenues use this link. Here is the list of categories covered with insights on each: 

1. Apartments - Great for a big sweepstakes such as "Live free for a year." Negotiate cash or use as an audience builder. 

2. Art - Simple sweepstakes with $500 value, or art contest such as submit a design to pain a mural, for a poster, or a straight best _________. 

3. Auto - Big sweepstakes give-away a car, sports sponsorships, Give away of $500 in branded goods and apparrel

4. Bars and Beer -  "Best of" contest, name the drink, recipe for the drink, sports 

5. Beauty - Makeovers and simple sweepstakes 

6. Big box Retail - Sponsorships of  photo and mom-oriented contests, or sports

7. Casinos and lotteries - All fans get a rewards card at new levels of fans, 'Lucky Dog Photo Contest'

8. Family restaurant - Simple sweepstakes (group party) or recipe contest

9. Fast food - Free _______for a year, Recipe to win Free_______for a year, Sports 

10. Grocery - Photo contests and other mom's contest, healthy recipes for kids or in general

12. Health - Sponsorship of baby photo contest, follow the marketer's lead

13. Home services - Sweepstakes and Makeovers. Pay attention to the Eco-Category

14. Sex products - Best Buns photo contest, best lips photo contest

15. Travel - Sweepstakes with packages,  essay ("why I want to go to..."), vacation photo

16. Other -  When in doubt, create a sweepstakes 

17. Multi-sponsor - Sports VIP picks, get their much shot with pick in the paper and online, pay $200 to $290 a week for 22 weeks

Many thanks to Todd Gilbert, Director of User Experience at Second Street media for his insights in creating this report. 

facebook, contests, examples