When we discussed the five steps to hosting a legal giveaway, I pretended that I was a fashion blogger. This time I’m going to turn into the Ace Hotel in-house counsel suits (this role is a little more familiar!)
I’m sitting at my desk when I get a phone call from the Social Media Manager. She tells me that they’ve decided to co-host an Instagram giveaway with a fashion blogger. And since company policy dictates that I am informed so I can write Official Rules she’s calling me. I ask her a list of questions to gather the following information:
- Entries will be counted from May 8 through May 10, 2015
- That the winner will receive a voucher good for a two nights stay in a specific type of room at the Palm Springs property
- Only US residents over the age of 18 can enter
- That there are two ways to enter (1) Following both of our Instagram accounts, and (2) posting a photo of what they would wear on their Palm Springs getaway with the hashtag #acegetaway
- That there is only one entry per Instagram account
- That the winning photo will be picked based on creativity, originality, and relationship to contest criteria
- That the Ace Hotel Social Media manager, the fashion blogger, and her friend will judge the entries and pick the winner
- That the winner will be notified via Instagram Direct and will have 24 hours to provide a valid email address that Ace Hotel can deliver the voucher to
- That we will be able to use the photographs submitted by all entrants on our social media accounts and marketing materials
After she’s given me the details, I call in my intern and tell him that we need to craft some Official Rules.
He’s never written them before, so I explain to him that Official Rules are the keystone of every giveaway. They are the contract that explains to those who enter the giveaway what they could win, if they are eligible to enter, and what to expect.
Official Rules are the keystone of every giveaway.
I send him off with an article and tell him to take a stab at writing them using the information.
Back to your friendly legal educator once again. I’m not going to bore you with more legal details than you need. So here’s the summary of the important points from the article that the intern got.
What needs to be included in Official Rules
Start + End Dates
Official Rules should outline the period where entries will be counted. For clarity, this should include the day of the week, date with year, time, and time zone. To avoid getting into hot water, giveaway hosts must stick to these dates, even if the number of entries is disappointing.
Of course, the rules should describe the prize(s). But they also should outline if multiples will be given away and the approximate retail value of the prize. If the giveaway is sponsored, these details should be double-checked with the sponsor. In addition, entrants should be told if they could transfer the prize to someone else or exchange it for something else. Finally, any expiration date should be spelled out.
Who can enter
Historically, giveaways have been limited to those over the age of 18 for both privacy and legal reasons.
In addition to age restrictions, entrants from geographic regions might need to be excluded. If the giveaway will be held on the Internet, then you must comply with every country’s laws where entry is allowed. Which means, you’ll probably want to limit entries to US residents. But within the US there are also several states that have specific requirements.
If you are hosting a sweepstakes, several states require registration and/or bonding:
- Florida: registration and bonding if the prizes in total are valued at more than $5,000
- New York: registration and bonding if the prizes in total are valued at more than $5,000
- Rhode Island: registration if the prize is valued at more than $500
And if you are hosting a contest and a purchase is required for entry then you must register with the state of Arizona.
Finally, there are some state-specific rules about winners. If you allow entrants from the following states you must publish the winners’ list: Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. And if you allow entrants from Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Tennessee you must award all the prizes.
Finally to eliminate the claim of favoritism, employees and family members are usually ineligible to win.
How they enter + how often + how chosen
We need to make sure this doesn’t turn into an illegal lottery. To make sure we don’t cross the line into an illegal lottery, we need to double-check our entry methods and winner selection process.
If entrants are giving you something of value, it’s a contest. If nothing of value is exchanged, we are in sweepstakes territory. So in this section you’ll spell out the entry methods and if any are required or optional. You’ll also spell out how often they can enter the giveaway.
Next we turn to outlining how we are going to pick the winner. Is this a sweepstakes and the winner will be random? Or is this a contest and specific criteria will determine the winner? What are those criteria and who are the judges?
When + how the winner will be told they won
In this section, you’ll explain what will happen after you pick a winner:
- how you will tell them
- what they need to do to accept the prize
- what the timeline looks like
How prize will be delivered
Again here we just outline the procedure for delivering the prize. If you sponsor will be directly involved in the delivery, make sure that they sign off on the timeline.
Since this is a highly regulated area you should also include at the end of your Official Rules:
- “No purchase necessary”
- “Void where prohibited by law”
- “The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning”
In addition to these boilerplate clauses, it’s a good idea to let people know who the sponsor is. If your entrants are creating copyrightable content, you should outline who owns the copyright and what you can do with it.Get your cheat sheet on how to write Official Rules for your next blog giveaway.Click To Tweet
Once you’ve done that, read this article to make sure you start your giveaway prep off on the right foot by deciding your goals.
Does this give you confidence that you can successfully craft your next set of Official Rules? Let me know in the comments.