Mobile Sweepstakes That Won Our Respect

Originally featured in Go-Mash Mobile

Sweepstakes have come a long way since the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol started creeping around the suburbs in their unsettling minivans. With the explosion of apps and the mobile web, companies have the channels and freedom to give away everything from a shoutout on their social media accounts to an all-expenses-paid vacation, without ever pulling into your driveway.

Our experience with our Perk user base has given us some valuable insights into what it takes to run a successful sweepstakes. People love having the opportunity to win an Xbox Bundle or Target gift card, without taking the time it would require to earn those items with reward points. The key to a successful sweepstakes is keeping it real; giving real users a chance to win real prizes. Below are several companies that get what it means to run a sweepstakes in the mobile age.


On the simple end of the sweepstakes spectrum, our Austin neighbors at C3Concerts have been using their Instagram account to give away free tickets with their #finditkeepit promotion. The premise is simple:

  • Follow @C3Concerts
  • Look for pictures leading to hidden tickets
  • Go to the location and #finditkeepit

The contest was initially slated to run from April 19th to May 3rd, but it appears C3 has kept it going indefinitely. And why wouldn’t they? Their follower count continues to grow, users are encouraged to check back regularly, and each giveaway generates a new piece of content for their feed. The best part is, they’re giving away their own product–one they can replicate at little to no cost–so they really have nothing to lose.

C3 did an excellent job identifying their target (concert-going Austinites with active social media accounts), minimizing their overhead (free tickets), and simplifying the participation criteria as much as possible (clear rules and winner, no subjectivity). For a local business, it doesn’t get much better than #finditkeepit.


Another successful Instagram sweepstakes came from the surprisingly hip financial tool, TurboTax. To promote their free tax filing offer to a younger audience–just in time for tax season–TurboTax came up with the #Absolute0 campaign, where participants were asked to follow @TurboTax, post a picture depicting three “0”s, and tag #Absolute0 in exchange for a chance to win $500. The contest resulted in over 500 entries, generating a hearty archive of user-generated content and several hundred more followers.

One thing TurboTax forgot to do was turn it into a popularity contest. By removing the voting element and opting to pick the winner internally, TurboTax missed out on a huge opportunity to engage their participants’ social networks. Regardless, they still managed to capture the attention of a new generation of taxpayers who typically left their returns up to their parents.


For a non-social example of a mobile sweepstakes, take a look at how Amazon lured users away from the Google Play Store with a $25,000 Amazon shopping spree. If you lived in the US, had an Amazon account (which is pretty much the entire population), had the Amazon app installed on your Android device, and downloaded ANY app from the Amazon App Store (free or premium), you were entered for a chance to win $25,000 in Amazon bucks.

This type of solicited sampling is a strong technique for any company in a highly competitive market. By tying the entry process directly to the user experience, Amazon has cut out any unnecessary gimmicks and brought users directly to the product they are trying to promote. Amazon was also smart to pick a believable prize. Although $25,000 is nothing to a company like Amazon, and they probably could’ve afforded to throw another zero or two on the end of that number, it’s important to keep your reward consistent with the amount of effort that goes into it. If Amazon would’ve offered a million dollars just for downloading their app, most people would’ve written it off as a scam. The key is making sure the means justify the ends.


Our final example is less about mobile user acquisition, and more about rewarding current users for their continued loyalty. To increase the downloads and user engagement of their check-in app, Marriott is giving away 1 million reward points to one lucky mobile user, as well as 100,000 each month leading up to the grand prize announcement.

With this sweepstakes, Marriott is trying to connect with their existing user base rather than start a new one. Sure, they wouldn’t mind gaining a few more customers in the process, but the key metric here is mobile downloads. Marriott is smart to capitalize on the rapidly growing number of app users in the market today, and they’re even smarter to do so with a sweepstakes. Throwing a sweepstakes to gain new users is risky, in that most people care more about winning a prize than the brand behind it. By tying their sweepstakes to their loyalty program, Marriott is rewarding their pre-existing fanbase for upgrading to their app. Everybody wins.

Sweepstakes Takeaways

We’ve covered mobile sweepstakes of all shapes and sizes, and there are a handful of things each of these contests have in common to make them a success.

  1. They had a simple entry process that required no more than 3-to-5 steps
  2. Their prizes were all relevant to their target in both value and subject
  3. They required some kind of brand interaction
  4. They gather actionable data

Now that you’ve seen what it takes to run a successful sweepstakes, get out there and start your own mobile sweepstakes for an even greater return on your app marketing investment.

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