Enter for a chance to win!  Advertising lawyers are forever reminding their clients to be clear that when a promotion is a sweepstakes, messaging needs to be clear that it is a random drawing and not a giveaway.  Recently, fashion brand Draper James reminded us all why that distinction is so important.

What was supposed to be a feel good moment appreciating teachers, almost instantly became a PR crisis moment for the brand.  The Instagram call to action said:

Dear Teachers:  We want to say thank you.  During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children.  To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress.

Jumping at the chance to get a free dress from the popular brand, the entry site crashed after logging close to a million entries.  Only 250 dresses were available.  While the call to action did include a “while supplies last” disclaimer in the post itself, it was not enough to quell the frustration and disappointment of so many teachers who did not receive a dress.

Sweepstakes are a popular and fun way to engage with customers and increase brand awareness.  Generally, those objectives can be met while complying with state and federal sweepstakes laws and avoiding customer confusion.

Brands are reminded of a few best practices and legal requirements:

  • Be clear about the details of the promotion in the advertising copy. Many consumers will not read to the details, so make sure they have the information they need in the advertising copy or social media post.  Make it clear that not everyone will win with phrases like “random drawing,” “you could win,” or “enter for a chance to win.”  As in all advertising claims, advertisers are responsible for both explicit and implicit claims.
  • Don’t run afoul of state lottery prohibitions. Ensure you are safely in contest (skill test), sweepstakes (random drawing with no payment or other consideration), or giveaway (not random and free) territory.  Include an alternate method of entry if needed.
  • Include a short rules disclosure with all calls to action and entry materials, including on social media, that links to full official rules for the promotion.
  • Don’t forget to register and bond where required.