Super Sweepstakes: More Than a Giveaway

The relationship between companies holding a sweepstakes and individuals participating in one has always been mutually beneficial.  Companies may be giving away fancy prizes, but it’s not exactly for free.

“Sweepstakes are a way for corporations to reach out to consumers and create a buzz about their products,” says Sandra Grauschopf, About.com’s Guide to Contests and Sweepstakes. “With most forms of advertising, companies are chasing after the consumer, who is trying to tune out the ads. But consumers actively seek out sweepstakes to enter, making them much more open to corporations’ advertising.”

Additionally, with the current economic climate adversely affecting many companies’ marketing budgets, the modern-day sweepstake is evolving. “It’s causing companies to look for new ways to get more bang for their buck,” Grauschopf says. “And that leads into social media where more and more companies are using sweepstakes to boost follower numbers and increase sales.”

Take, for example, Chrysler’s recently-ended Jeep Tiki Hunt. Online car contests are a dime a dozen, but Jeep got plenty of publicity for its national scavenger hunt, when it revealed clues to the location of three hidden tikis via its Web site, Facebook and Twitter.

By the time Scott Carman of Golden, Colo., had found the last tiki (and claimed the third limited-edition Jeep Wrangler Islander), Jeep had nearly 500,000 Web site hits, an extra 32,000 Facebook friends and a 275% increase in Twitter followers.  During the two-month-long contest, 10 million people viewed or shared content on the Jeep Facebook page.

“This unique experience has given us the opportunity to connect and communicate directly with Jeep consumers on several levels,” Mike Manley, President and CEO of Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group LLC.

Dianna Gutierrez of Chyrsler’s Brand Newsroom told MainStreet the automaker will “most likely” run a similar contest in the future, but changes in sweepstakes aren’t limited to utilizing social media.

“People love to dream big and sweepstakes are a way for them to change their lives or to win prizes they could never afford to buy themselves,” Grauschopf says.  “Large prizes make corporations who sponsor sweepstakes stand out in a crowd.”

Contests with large prizes typically involve some type of entrance fee.  Sure, this cheapens things a bit, but someone’s gotta pay for that $1.4 million dream house (more on that later). However, those who’d rather avoid putting up any cash can enter sweepstakes that showcase a different emerging trend. Companies unable to afford exuberant prizes are starting to offer weirder prizes.

Just this April, Josh Stevens “won” the chance to “Live off of Groupons” for a year. The contest got a lot press for being unique (why, exactly, were 20,000 people competing to go 365 days with no cash, no home and no personal possessions?), but, more importantly, it guaranteed Groupon a year’s worth of residual publicity. Folks now have to stay tuned to see if the Groupawn, who started his journey just last week, manages to survive on Groupons alone in order to win the real prize - $100,000.

“Unique prizes help corporations stand out in a crowd and capture consumers’ imaginations,” Grauschopf explains, ”Some prizes you see over and over again, but people really notice something unique. Also, sweepstakes websites, news reporters and independent media sources are more likely to spread the word about sweepstakes with prizes that will get people talking.”

In other words, go big, go weird, go viral or go home.  To celebrate the evolution of sweepstakes, MainStreet has picked out some contests that guarantee its winners a piece of the American Dream.

WIN YOUR DREAM HOME:

Earlier this year, Myra Lewis won a $2 million Southwest-style home in Sandia Park, N.M., in HGTV’s annual Dream Home Giveaway (Lewis also won a GMC Terrain and $500,000).

Those of you who are jealous shouldn’t fret.  HGTV holds its Dream Home Contest every year, but, beyond that, the television network is currently giving away a second house in the spin-off sweepstakes HGTV Green Home. You have 21 more days to enter to win the eco-friendly Plymouth, Mass., house, a GMC Terrain and $100,000. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and notified between June 20-23.

You don’t have to rely on HGTV for your dream house. The Tahoe Moutain Resort Foundation gives away a $ 1.4 million vacation home every year in its Lake Tahoe Dream Raffle. This sweepstakes isn’t free; the foundation charges $100 per raffle ticket. However, you should know that those who don’t want to move to Lake Tahoe can opt to take $1 million in cash instead.

The 2010 dream house was raffled off in April, but you can visit the Web site to sign up for the newsletter that will tell you when the next drawing takes place.

WIN YOUR DREAM JOB:

On June 27, Adidas Golf will kick off its “Wear in the World” Ultimate Interview contest. Two applicants, being selected as we speak, will travel to nine countries on three continents for 50 days. They’ll compete in a series of business-related challenges (a la The Apprentice) with the winner ultimately being hired to work in the TaylorMade adidas Golf headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. Pointedly, the contest requires that the contestants utilize adidasGolf’s social media channels.

“As a company that prides itself on innovation, we are always thinking of new ways to touch the consumer,” Harry Arnett, vice president of brand and product marketing for adidas Golf, told MainStreet. “The Wear in the World interview campaign is unique in that it provides us with an opportunity for exposure while serving the ultimate goal of bringing new talent into the organization.”

You can watch the drama unfold online.

WIN YOUR DREAM TRANSPORT:

The Experimental Aircraft Association gives away a different type of plane every year at its AirVenture convention at Oshkosh, Wis.  This year it’s giving away an Aviat Husky A-1C (go ahead, take a look).  Entries are available online and can also be purchased during EAA AirVenture, a convention held July 26-Aug. 1. Each raffle ticket costs $20; EAA uses the proceeds for its aviation programs. 

“We traditionally draw the winner after mixing the thousands of entries on AirVenture’s final day in a cement mixing truck supplied by Oshkosh Corporation,” Dick Knapinski, EAA Communications Director told MainStreet. “Makes a nice visual.”

If you’re afraid of flying, you can check out WEtv’s “Bling My Cart” Sweepstakes. The television network is giving away a $12,000 golf cart to promote its new reality show Sunset Daze.  You have until May 21 to enter.

WIN YOUR DREAM WEDDING:

Good Morning America, Live with Regis and Kelly and even your local news station have given weddings away. Still, no one is as consistent as Destinationweddings.com, which is currently raffling off a slew of destination weddings and/or honeymoons.

One of their current sweepstakes, The Ultimate Dream Destination Wedding Contest: Bermuda, gives away both. Those interested have until May 31 to apply.  It doesn’t cost anything to enter, but, you need to be getting married in 2010 and you have to write an essay about why you should win.

The Grand Prize couple receives a wedding ceremony and reception for 20 people at The Fairmont Hamilton Princess, 10 double-occupancy guest rooms at the hotel, 20 JetBlue (Stock Quote: JBLU )airline tickets (departing from either the Boston or JFK airports) and a $1,000 gift card from Saks Fifth Avenue (Stock Quote: SKS).

WIN YOUR DREAM EXPERIENCE:

Pantene’s current sweepstakes has a prize that’s viral, unique and slightly exuberant (at least if you’re a Bret Michaels fan). Their “World’s First Reality Hair Star” contest gives entrants a chance to star in a live Pantene commercial alongside spokeswoman Stacy London, host of What Not to Wear.  (The winner, oddly, will also get tickets to a Bret Michaels concert, first-class airfare, backstage passes and a ride on his tour bus.)

Pantene currently has video of all 12 finalists up on its Web site. The winner (and her hair) will appear in a live ad during The Biggest Loser finale on May 25.

Wrigley’s “Chew with the Crew Sweepstakes” is giving people the chance to be on racecar driver Kyle Busch’s pit crew. The winner will be flown out to Bristol, Tenn., for a VIP pit crew experience Aug. 21.  He or she will also receive three days and two nights of hotel accommodations, a rental car, two tickets to the Sprint Cup Series race, #18 Pit Crew fire suit and $600 spending money. You have until June 30 to register.

Not to be outdone, Nathan’s Famous Franks is raffling off two chances to be a judge in its uber-famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest. Entrants have until May 31 to be eligible for the 2010 opportunity.  A second raffle for participation in the 2011 contest runs June 1-Sept. 6.  In addition to the judging gig, both prize packages include roundtrip airfare for four, two nights of hotel accommodations and $2,200 spending money.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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