by Thallen Brassel | Featured Contributor
Let’s face it—everyone loves free stuff, especially fun promotions like contests and sweepstakes! Promotions are great for companies because they create awareness and buzz about their products. Similarly, customers win because they get to interact with their favorite brands and score free “swag” in the process. If you’re thinking about creating a sweepstakes or contest to promote your brand, here are a few legal tidbits to consider first:
Official Rules – The “Official Rules” are the most important document for your promotion. Basically they’re the instruction manual to inform entrants of all the key terms to know such as method of entry, eligibility requirements, and prize descriptions. Although the official rules will vary across promotions, there are quite a few requirements that must be included by some state laws (such as odds of winning, conditions of winning, approximate retail value of prizes and instructions to obtain a winners’ list). Although you may be tempted to draft this document on your own, consider having an attorney review your final product. There are so many technical aspects to consider (and requirements to meet) that having legal eyes read over the documents may give you a bit more comfort.
State Filings – Promotions must comply with the laws of every state where an entrant may live. So, if your sweepstakes is open to all U.S. residents, you must make sure you have not violated the laws of any of the 50 states (or federal laws for that matter). Some states (namely, Florida, New York and Rhode Island) have very specific requirements regarding registration BEFORE the promotion even begins. For instance, New York requires registration at least 30 days ahead of the promotion’s start date. Again, it is probably a good idea to check in with an attorney who has experience in this area to avoid going afoul of any applicable law.
Other Considerations – Another thing to consider is that good (or bad) public relations can make or break a promotion… Whenever dealing with your customers, the best approach is to be forthcoming, honest, and fair. Make sure that nothing about your promotion appears “shady”, and that every interaction with an entrant (and customer) is positive. The goal here is for the promotion to build up your brand, not harm it.
For other tips and posts on life, law and the internet, check out ThallenBrassel.com
*This post should not be taken as legal advice. Please seek the advice and/or counsel of your own attorney regarding any matters discussed here.
Thallen Brassel is an attorney in the Nashville office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, where she concentrates her practice in business, tax and technology law. She is an alumna of Vanderbilt University and Duke University School of Law, and before returning home to Tennessee, she began her legal career at a Wall Street law firm in New York City.
Thallen is also the creator of Life, Law and the Internet, a consumer’s blog that brings awareness to how the law and internet impact our daily lives. Her current interests include the fast-paced sector of social media, marketing & advertising, and she has experience advising Fortune 500 companies on marketing campaigns, and compliance with federal and state regulations.
Thallen is also a wife and mom, and enjoys volunteering, traveling and chasing around her toddler son! Follow her on Twitter @ThallenEsq.