If you’re reading this, you probably know that many people consider entering sweepstakes and contests a hobby. These individuals are often referred to as “Sweepers” and what they do is called “sweepstaking.” Sweepers enter hundreds of sweepstakes and contests each year and many win expensive prizes such as vacation trips, cars, cash and other prizes that are called “M.A.,” an abbreviation of “Major Awards.”
What companies that sponsor sweepstakes may not know about is the extensive cottage industry that has sprung up around sweepstakes and other promotions. Clubs, apps, and various online resources curate instant information about all available sweepstakes and provide consumers with a direct line to enter the promotions. The stated goal is to provide access to as many sweepstakes as quickly as possible.
Interestingly, that goal is likely contrary to the marketing goals of the sweepstakes sponsors, which typically want consumers to connect with their products or services in a meaningful way before entering a sweepstakes. And sweepstakes themselves are a marketing tactic intended to inspire loyalty. As we will detail below, there is no loyalty in “auto-fill” forms. However, it’s important for sweepstakes sponsors to be aware of all the ways their promotions are being captured, filtered, and served up to rabid Sweepers each day.
How do Sweepers find their sweepstakes?
Many Sweepers are members of Sweepstakes clubs. These clubs are in virtually all major cities, and more are formed each year. Sweepstakes clubs provide Sweepers with the opportunity to exchange information about current promotions, prizes, odds of winning, methods of entry and new ways to win a Sweepstakes.
What you may not know is how Sweepers “sweepstake” today. Most Sweepers rely on apps created by sweepstakes companies to find promotions they want to enter. These apps list hundreds of sweepstakes and contests throughout the U.S. and allow Sweepers to search for specific types of sweepstakes and contests. For example, a Sweeper may request to only see promotions that have certain types of M.A., such as vacations, cars, boats or prizes valued more than $1,000.
A few of the most popular sweepstakes companies include The Balance Sweepstakes Directory, Online-Sweepstakes.com, and Sweepstakes Sweep.
There are also companies that provide Sweepers with daily lists of sweepstakes and contests consumers may want to enter, which saves the Sweeper a great deal of time finding the sweepstakes on their own. These companies include: Daily Sweep Lists and Lots of Prize Promotions.
Most Sweepers also use another valuable tool called “auto-fills” that enable them to enter their name, address, phone number, etc., onto an entry form at the push of a button. All Sweepers have to do is to enter their contact information into the autofill app and then they can enter a sweepstakes in a matter of seconds. The most popular autofill companies appear to be Roboform and LastPass.
A few companies, such as Win for Me, Your Sweepstakes, and Sweepstakes Wizard offer automatic entry into sweepstakes, which allows the Sweepers to enter the promotion without even seeing the entry form or visiting the online description of the rules and instructions. However, some sponsors now prohibit such automatic entries as well as the use of autofill entries.
Many of the companies listed above do not charge for using their app and others charge only a small fee.
How does it work?
After writing this post, it occurred to me that someday, when I retire, I may want to become a Sweeper. With that in mind, I read several “how to” articles by Sandra Grauschopf (one of the most knowledgeable people concerning sweepstakes and contests, and someone who has participated in a three-part Q&A feature with this blog) and then created a robo auto-fill. I decided to limit my entries to sweepstakes that had prizes valued at more than $500 and had short entry periods. I entered 10 sweepstakes in about 45 minutes, and didn’t win any instant prizes. However, I am still waiting for a notice that I have won a grand prize. I will let you know if that ever happens.
In the meantime, I think I will concentrate on creating Sweepstakes – not sweepstaking them.
Dale Joerling is the chair of Thompson Coburn’s Advertising, Marketing and Promotion Law group and the editorial director of the Sweepstakes Law Blog.