What's The Difference Between Contests, Sweepstakes & Lotteries?

Find out the difference between contests, sweepstakes and lotteries, learn which type of promotion is right for you, and get all the tools you need to run your own powerful campaign.

Running a contest, sweepstakes, giveaway or any type of promotion which gives users the chance to win a prize in exchange for completing designated actions is an outstanding way to boost awareness, skyrocket engagement and drive the actions that matter to you.

Terms like Giveaway and Prize Promotion are often used to describe a range of different types of promotions you can run to effectively drive powerful actions and grow your brand, each with their own unique definitions, requirements and advantages.

Contests and Sweepstakes are the best types of promotions businesses can run, but to help you get a full breadth of understanding we're going to take you through all the different types of prize giveaways that can be run including their definitions, advantages, and legal requirements.

An online sweepstakes is a type of prize giveaway where prizes are randomly given away to users who enter by completing designated actions that don't require a purchase or other forms of consideration. If a purchase or donation is required for entry, a free entry alternative must be made available.

Common giveaways such as "Like to win" or "Follow to win" giveaways all fall under the term Sweepstakes.

Sweepstakes are the perfect type of promotion to run if you want to boost awareness, maximise participation and drive actions such as signing up to your newsletter, following or interacting with you on social media or visiting a webpage.

Learn More About Running Online Sweepstakes

Find out what an online sweepstakes is, what rules apply to them, and how you can run your own highly successful luck-based giveaway.

Contests are a type of giveaway where entries involve an element of skill, and winners are chosen based on the merit of their entry.

A contest could require entrants to submit a photo, answer questions, respond to writing prompts or complete any other action or task that can be judged on performance for a chance to win a prize.

Contests are great for driving high levels of engagement and generating valuable photos, videos and other types of user-generated content.

Plus, unlike sweepstakes, contests can be used to incentivise the purchase of products. This means you can run contests which ask users to submit and share creative photos of themselves with your products, videos of your product in action, or written accounts of how they use your product.

Learn More About Running Contests

Find out the ins and outs of online contests, what rules apply to them, and how you can effectively run your own.

The other types of legally defined prize giveaways are lotteries and raffles.

A lottery is a type of prize promotion where entrants pay money to enter the promotion, and winners are selected at random or names are drawn randomly from a list. Requiring people to pay to enter a giveaway where winners are randomly drawn violates no purchase necessary laws in the USA and most other countries, and are generally only legal when run by the government.

Raffles are another type of prize promotion that function the same as lotteries with two key differences:

  1. Raffles must have a winner every time, the prize pool cannot be "carried over" to another draw as they can with lotteries.
  2. Raffles can be run by not-for-profit organisations.

So if you're a business looking to run a promotional giveaway you should avoid running lotteries and raffles as it is illegal to do so. Instead you should focus your efforts on running highly effective sweepstakes and contests.

Contests and sweepstakes are both exceptionally effective strategies businesses can use to engage an audience, skyrocket awareness and drive a wide range of relevant powerful and meaningful actions.

No matter what it is that you want to get out of your campaign, with Gleam's Competitions app you can easily make it a reality.

You can run everything from sweepstakes that drive the actions that are important to your business...

  Learn More About Sweepstakes

To contests that incentivise users to submit photos, videos, or written content.

  Learn More About Contests

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Ahron Burstin

Ahron is a Growth Marketer at Gleam. Shoot him a Tweet if you got something out of this post ☺