Sweepstakes terms and conditions: they’re the equivalent of the rules you’d read on the inside of a board game box, but for your giveaway. Running a sweepstakes without a terms and conditions section? Not a good idea. Your promotion really, really should have a set of rules that all potential participants can access. And let’s face it…without rules, there’s chaos.
If you’re running a large social media promotion with a big budget, spending tens of thousands of dollars to promote it on a wider scale, you probably have a legal team to help you button up the legal aspects of your giveaway.
But not all of us are so fortunate as to be in that position. You may have read terms and conditions from other promotions you’ve entered and come across terms like LIMITATION OF LIABILITY or NO PURCHASE NECESSARY and thought to yourself ‘I can’t do this…I can’t afford a lawyer’. Nonsense. If you’re running a social media promotion that’s not so large, and you’re without the assistance of a team like a large brand, generating terms and conditions for your giveaway shouldn’t have you running for the door either.
In this post, you’ll be introduced to a recommended sweepstakes terms and conditions template along with some best practices. Learn how to generate terms and conditions for your next giveaway, and be exposed to a few sample terms and conditions for reference.
Before We Begin…A Preface
As you’re reading this post, there are a few things you should know about the perspective from which this article was written.
First, know that I’m not a lawyer. While I believe that providing terms and conditions for all your promotions is important, I don’t believe they have to be complicated as some make them out to be. I’ve been studying sweepstakes since Rafflecopter was first launched in 2011. I’ve seen my fair share of sweepstakes and contests—some legal and some a little sketchy.
While I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge on the subject below, please understand that you and only you are solely responsible for your promotion’s compliance with the law and the legality surrounding your promotions.
Second, our company is established in the United States and a majority of our traffic comes from the United States. We’ve written a handful of posts in the past particular to laws in the US (Giveaways & the CAN-SPAM Act, No Purchase Necessary, etc.) While this post was specifically written with US law at top of mind and may reference other articles pertaining to US law, even if you live outside the US, you should still learn a thing or two about creating terms and conditions.
Finally, sweepstakes promotions (sometimes referred to as giveaway promotions) will be the focus of this article. Contests and lotteries won’t be discussed much here (learn about the differences between a contest, sweepstakes, and lottery). That aside, there are some similarities between sweepstakes and contests, primarily when it comes to selecting the winner. That will be touched on briefly towards the end of the article.
Terms and Conditions Template: Section by Section
Below are a handful of broken-down sections you can use to build your terms and conditions. There are a total of fourteen sections. They were chosen based on researching many other giveaway terms and conditions we’ve come across over the years and our experience creating our own. The sections described below will hopefully cover your bases, but do keep in mind the sections are merely suggestions. In writing your own sweepstakes T&Cs, feel free to reference this article, but you might add additional terms or remove some sections depending on the specifics of your giveaway.
We’ll include a short description of what should be included in each section. Afterwards, we’ll combine all the sections together to help you generate your own official sweepstake T&Cs.
We’ll start off easy. Your title is just the name of your sweepstakes. It should have an official title and should be included in the header of your official rules. Our monthly giveaway currently running at the time of writing this post is the “Rafflecopter Summer 2016 Giveaway”.
ii. No Purchase Necessary
Be clear that entrants know that a purchase won’t increase their odds of winning—it’s the law. If you happen to be running a promotion where entrants are able to increase their odds of winning by purchasing something, you should put things on pause and become familiar with this term. If you’re not, we’ve put together a fairly comprehensive article on the subject: No Purchase Necessary & Giveaways: Everything You Need to Know.
iii. Promotion Description
This is where you give a high-level description of your sweepstakes, including the dates and times of when your giveaway starts and ends (don’t forget to mention what time zone). List the sponsor company of the giveaway, and the administrator if applicable. You can even include a contact email address so participants can email you if they have any questions before going further.
Who is eligible to participate and ultimately win the prize(s) you’re giving away? Do entrants have to be residents of certain zip codes, states, and countries to be eligible? Do participants have to be of a certain age? These are the questions that should be answered here.
You should include who isn’t eligible to participate as well. It’s smart to include copy that describes that employees of the sponsoring company and their family members aren’t eligible to win to avoid a potential conflict.
As you’re describing the prize you’re giving away, you should include how many prizes you’re giving away, and how many winners will be given each prize. Include the average retail value (ARV) of the prize as well, which might be relevant if you offer the option for the winner to exchange it. If you’re giving away various levels of prizes (a grand prize and a runner-up prize), describe how many winners and prizes will be available at each level.
Also consider adding copy around how many prizes will be given out per household. If you want to give the option for a prize to be replaced by cash or a gift card, list it here. And as a reminder, if you’re shipping the prize to the winner, it’s up to you to pay for the shipping. By law, you cannot make winners to pay for the shipping, even if it’s expensive.
vi. How to Enter
What do participants have to do to officially enter? Where do they have to go to enter? If you want to have entrants participate in a number of ways, you should list them all in detail here. You can also include some info as to how not to enter. To encourage authentic participation, you should make a statement that says entrants can’t enter with a bot or a service that automatically enters participants.
vii. Winner Selection
As a sweepstakes should be, specify that winners will be chosen at random. Also describe who will be choosing the winner and when winners will be chosen. Describe the odds of winning the giveaway, which is commonly dependent on the number of entries.
viii. Winner Notification
Here you’ll explain how and when your giveaway winners will be contacted. Also, describe how long each winner will have to claim their prize. If the prize isn’t claimed by a certain date or timeframe, explain what happens to the prize.
x. Limitation of Liability
As the sponsor of the giveaway, how liable are you if the giveaway doesn’t go as planned? If you’re running a sweepstakes for your company that lasts 12 months, and the company happens to go out of business during that time period, what should happen? This is the section that describes these kind of scenarios.
xi. Social Network Disclaimers
If you’re advertising or running your giveaway on a social media platform, or if your giveaway has a deeper integration with a social network where participants are performing an action on that social network, include a disclaimer that explicitly releases the social network from any kind of liability. Even if you’re giving the option for participants to sign into your giveaway using Facebook connect, Facebook doesn’t want to be held liable for any aspect of your promotion.
You can find an example disclaimer/statement of release in our article on the subject here: Facebook Promotion Guidelines & Giveaway Rules.
xii. Winner List
Participants want to know who won after the sweepstakes is over and they have a right to know who was chosen. While it’s been common in the past for entrants to mail in a self-addressed stamped envelope to acquire a winners list, it’s also becoming more common for sponsors to list the giveaway’s winners on a webpage or social media post.
As the sponsor of the giveaway, list your company and contact information, including your company name, address, and email address.
If your giveaway has an administrator, list the administrator company and contact information here. A common example of when a sweepstakes can have an administrator is if an advertising agency is managing a sweepstakes promotion on behalf of their client.
A Sweepstakes Terms and Conditions Template Generator
Putting the above fourteen sections together, we’ve created a Google doc that you can use that includes all the sections above:
This Google doc was created to help you generate your own sweepstakes terms and conditions from our sample. To use this guide, you can either make a copy of the doc, save it to your desktop and edit it there, or copy and paste it as you see fit. There are areas of each section in the template that are capitalized and highlighted, which you should edit to fit your promotion.
Again, the sections and its copy provided in this doc will hopefully cover your bases, but do keep in mind that the sections are merely suggestions. It’s just a sample. Finally, please understand that you and only you are solely responsible for your promotion’s compliance with the law and the legality surrounding your promotions.
Other Terms and Conditions Considerations
While most subjects have been touched on above, if you haven’t had your question(s) addressed, let us know in the comments section below. That aside, below are three other somewhat-common considerations as you move forward with your promotion.
A note on daily and weekly winners
Though it can be a bit more complicated, running a promotion with daily winners can be fun and bring an increase in engagement to your campaign. If you have a promotion running where you’re also picking daily or weekly winners in addition to a larger grand prize, you should include a timetable in your terms and conditions that describes the various entry periods, when those periods start and end times and dates occur, and when winners will be drawn for each period.
Running a contest?
While this article’s main focus is sweepstakes promotions, the main difference between a contest and a sweepstakes is that unlike sweepstakes winners, contest winners aren’t chosen at random. If you’re running a contest where there is some kind of judgment protocol required to choose the winner, you’ll have to explicitly state how that will work and how entries are judged.
Running a photo contest? You might also have to put content restrictions in place to spell out what consists of an acceptable entry (for example, no entry will be valid if it’s considered inappropriate, pornographic, considered hateful, etc.).
Running a ‘Twitter-only’ sweepstakes?
Twitter-only sweepstakes aren’t too uncommon. If you’re thinking about running one where participants can ‘Retweet and Follow to Enter for a Chance to Win!’, remember that you’re not collecting email addresses in this type of promotion and you’ll only be able to contact potential winners through Twitter.
Where should terms and conditions be hosted?
Having a centralized location of your terms and conditions for participants’ easy access is something you should provide. Placing them on a non-editable public Google doc is always a safe choice. Putting them on a web page, preferably hosted by you so you have full control of when to put them up and take them down, is also a good bet. Sometimes for shorter giveaways, like some of the many Facebook flash giveaways we run, we’ll host our terms in a raw text gist file found here and link to them using a URL shortener in our Facebook post.
Questions or feedback?
Hopefully this helps bring a little insight to this unsexy (but necessary!) subject matter. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to address them.