Nearly every U.S. state has some specifics on what you must include in your contest rules. The first thing about creating contest rules is to understand the difference between contest rules and sweepstakes rules. They are written in different ways. Simply put: sweepstakes winning is determined randomly without prejudice, and contest winners are chosen by skill or by doing something to win. Understanding this basic difference will help you create the proper rules for your contest. In this article, we outline the basics of putting together an official rules for your contest.

5 easy steps to create contest rules

Step 1: Put together an answer to the following questions about your contest

  • You will want to first determine the answer to the following questions about your contest that will help you fill out the important points of your contest. These are:
  • The date range for entry, the deadline, the date for picking winners and the date for receiving prizes
  • Eligibility requirements (age, restrictions, company affiliation, location etc)
  • Sponsor’s contact information
  • How to enter the contest (the process and what methods to enter)
  • How the winners are determined and announced
  • How the winner obtains the prizes
  • Exact information on what the prizes are and how they are fulfilled and delivered

Step 2: Obtain the state by state requirement for contest rules for the states you are permitting entry

Each state may have specific requirements to include in your contest rules. It is important to include the regulation verbiage into the contest rules in order to prevent and avoid any risk of lawsuit. This task may be better left to a sweepstakes and contest administration company to help you put together your rules correctly. Alternately you can hire a lawyer.

Step 3: Check the disclaimers from social media platforms like Facebook if you intend to promote any part of your contest on social media

Facebook and other platforms like Twitter may offer some guidelines that explain any disclaimers you might need to include for your contest. For instance, you may need to release each entrant, include a statement that the social media platform does not sponsor the contest and so forth.

Step 4: Make sure to tell entrants how their information will be collected and used

Much like you see in website privacy policies, because contests gather contact information from entrants, it is important to explain how their information will be used, if you intend to share it with third parties and so forth. This may have some restrictions per state which you may determine in step 2 above!

Step 5: Include a caveat for rule violation

As old as time, there will always be someone who wants to rig the system. Some people may try to buy their way into winning. Though contests are a bit more forgiving than sweepstakes in this regard, it is also important to keep the contest fair to all entrants and allow yourself the ability to disqualify a person if need be. Therefore always include a statement that you have the right to disqualify any entrant that you suspect of rigging the contest in any way.

Final bonus step

And as a final bonus step, feel free to contact a sweepstakes and contest management company to do the job of putting together the official contest rules and any other legal documents that you will need for your contest. This can save you time, money and the risk of potential legal issues.