Looking to sharpen your sweepstakes expertise?

Want to learn a few tiny—and easily overlooked—ideas that can reduce your corporate risk?

Before you roll out your sweepstakes, there are four little decisions you’ll need to make that can have a big impact on your campaign.

This article will help marketers who don’t have a lot of experience running a sweepstakes campaign decide how to make four simple—and often-overlooked—decisions that can dramatically impact on the outcome of their official rules.

Decision #1: Who is eligible to enter your sweepstakes or contest?

Most companies open their sweepstakes to residents of all 50 states, 18 years of age and older.

But you don’t have to do that.

You can limit it to certain market areas or ages.

a) Do you want to open your sweepstakes to all 50 states? (Or do you want to limit it to certain states?)

      Points to consider:

  • If you have a limited market, why open it up to people everywhere in the US? For instance, if you don’t sell products in California, you won’t be happy if the winner is from California. Or, if you only sell products to certain counties or zip codes, you can limit eligibility to just those geographic areas.
  • If your prize is a trip to the Bahamas or Paris, sometimes we recommend limiting the eligibility to the contiguous 48 states and exclude Alaska and Hawaii. That’s because flight costs are expensive.

b) The most common age limit for sweepstakes is 18+, but you don’t have to follow that norm.

      Points to consider:

  • In some states, 18 years of age is not considered a legal adult and participants cannot agree to the official rules, which could open your company up to risk. Instead of opening your sweepstakes to 18+, consider opening your sweepstakes to the age of majority in the entrant’s state of residence. For instance, the age of majority in Alabama and Nebraska is 19, and in Mississippi, 21.
  • If your prize includes a trip, event, or a party you may want to consider limiting the age to 21+.
  • If your product is targeted to teenagers, open your sweepstakes to 13+. Keep in mind, if your winner is not an adult, their legal guardian will need to sign a release and the guardian would be responsible for accepting the prize on the entrant’s behalf.
  • You need to be careful that you do not collect any PII data from anyone under 13. If you’re advertising a sweepstakes to a 13+ audience, you want to make sure you are age-gating your entry methods to make sure that children under 13 are not entering. Sweepstakes targeted to ages under 13 are highly regulated. Once you open it up to under 13, you need to consider COPPA, CARU, and other related laws.

Decision #2: What is the limit of entries for your sweepstakes? 

In other words, how many times do you want someone to enter your sweepstakes?

Points to consider:

  • The most common entry limit is one entry per person.
  • If your goal is to collect entrant email addresses or other entrant data to add to your marketing database, there’s no reason to allow them to enter more than once.
  • If your goal is to get lots of visits to your site, consider allowing the entrants to enter multiple times: one entry per person per day. (You could also set alternate limits such as one entry per week, just as long as you set a limit.)

Note: if your sweepstakes is online, make sure you avoid unlimited entries—always set a limit. You could be a victim by people cheating using bots and other methods.

Decision #3: When confirming a winner, should you require a background check on the winner?

Background checks are an additional expense and take time to run the check.

Points to consider:

  • However, if the prize has to do with a celebrity, public event, or you plan to run a publicity campaign on the winner, then we always recommend the winner go through a background check.
  • Check the winner’s criminal background and social profile so the winner doesn’t reflect badly on your company.
  • Disclose in the rules that you, the sponsor, have the right to eliminate any winner based on the results of the background check and that the sponsor has the right to choose an alternate winner.

Decision #4: Should you have one (or multiple) entry periods?

Most sweepstakes have a start and an end date and you choose a winner after the end date.

In this case, your sweepstakes has one entry period.

Points to consider:

  • If you have several prizes to offer, consider having multiple entry periods and winners. For example, consider daily entry periods or weekly entry periods. Having a winner every day or every week creates more excitement and more urgency. Ask yourself:  do you have enough prizes to sustain that excitement?

Why do I have to make these decisions when Official Rules are being written? 

This is to protect your company later on and you have to disclose these material items upfront.

Think of the sweepstakes rules as a contract between you and the entrant.

If someone breaks the contract, you have the rules to back you up.


Whether you’re an experienced sweepstakes marketer or not, you’ll be making many decisions when writing your official rules.

These four little decisions are easy to overlook, so make sure they’re addressed in your final document.

Schedule your free sweepstakes (or contest) consultation 

Are you sure your official rules are written by sweepstakes experts?

Have you overlooked a few simple—but critical—decisions in your official rules?

Need guidance to ensure your rules are legally compliant?

Whether you’re thinking about running a sweepstakes for the first time or you’re looking for guidance on writing and ensuring your rules are legally compliant, we’ll review your sweepstakes idea to ensure it fits your goal.

This assessment is perfect for marketers, digital marketers, agency executives, and corporate attorneys.

Here’s some insight on what you’ll walk away with:

  • A free 30-minute consultation on your sweepstakes (or contest) idea
  • Recommendations and a plan for how to best execute your idea
  • Awareness about which of our services are right for your idea (based on our capabilities and services)
  • Help with legal administration, digital development, hosting, and prize fulfillment
  • A timeline that will get your promotion launched as quickly as possible

How do you access your consultation?

Contact us to schedule a time for your free consultation.

What happens after you submit the form?

Just fill out the form so we know a little bit about you and your idea. Then, one of our experts will email you to schedule a time for your free, no-obligation consultation.

After your consultation, US Sweepstakes & Fulfillment Company will email you a proposal, a sweepstakes plan and a scope of work that your manager and legal team will feel confident in implementing.