Sweepstakes Rules: Free Template & Beginner’s Guide


Wondering how to run an online contest and which style of contest to choose? An online sweepstakes is one of the most effective strategies for your business to build your email list, drive social media engagement and (ultimately) boost sales.

The problem, of course, is knowing how to run one successfully.

A lot of that is best practices, and I covered that in “How to Create a Successful Sweepstakes.” But a lot of it is also in making sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with the legal stuff.

Nothing is more frustrating than learning that your contest breaks some state or federal law for online giveaways. And that’s why it’s so important that you get this stuff right.

This article will break down the 9 essential elements to creating complete and official sweepstakes rules and provide a downloadable template.

Sweepstakes Rules #1. Eligibility

Your sweepstakes rules need to express clearly who’s allowed to enter. This will cover your back for down the line, because you may have to disqualify people.

For instance, say someone submits a fake email address to your sweepstakes (this happens quite frequently). Many third-party sweepstakes tools (like Wishpond), actually have fail-safes in place to protect users from fake email submissions, but if you run your sweepstakes by yourself having a solid eligibility section allows you to say “I removed your entry because you didn’t meet the eligibility restrictions you agreed to upon entry.”

Including a location as part of your sweepstakes eligibility also protects you from having to ship your sweepstakes prize to Nigeria.

Sweepstakes Rules #2. Agreement to Rules

Essentially you need to include a section within your sweepstakes rules which states that, by entering the sweepstakes, entrants agree to your rules.

Something like…

By participating, the Contestant (“You”) agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and You represent and warrant that You meet the eligibility requirements. In addition, You agree to accept the decisions of [Sweepstakes Owner] as final and binding as it relates to the content of this Campaign.

This ensures your rules are binding and people are committed (and legally bound) to them.

Sweepstakes Rules #3. Campaign Period

This is actually more important than you might think. Having a beginning and end to your sweepstakes ensures A) there is an incentive for people to enter now, rather than whenever they want and B) that you’ve covered when entries are accepted.

Something like…

Entries will be accepted online starting [Start Date] on and ending [End Date]. All online entries must be received by [End Date].

Sweepstakes Rules #4. How to Enter

“How to Enter” is also a recommended element to have within your sweepstakes page (though a simplified, step-by-step version).

But for the purposes of your sweepstakes rules, you need to be way more specific.

Breaking down “how to enter,” like the Eligibility section, covers you when excluding entries. Ensure you include….

  • Entries that are incomplete will be excluded
  • Entries that do not adhere to the specifications of entry will be excluded
  • Entrants may only enter once.
  • Entrants cannot use fraudulent methods or attempt to circumvent the rules

Something like…

The Campaign must be entered by submitting an entry using the online form provided at [Link to Sweepstakes]. The entry must fulfill all Campaign requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win a prize. Entries that are incomplete or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of [Sweepstakes Owner].

You may enter only once. You must provide the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities, or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If You use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules, your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of [Sweepstakes Owner].

Sweepstakes Rules #5. Prizes

You might think that the section on prizes within your sweepstakes rules would just cover what the prize is. You’d be wrong.

There’s actually as much legalese in the prize section as there is in any other.

Be sure you cover…

  • The value of the prize (and the fact that actual value may differ when you award it)
  • The prize is nontransferable
  • The prize can’t be exchanged for cash
  • Acceptance of the prize means you can use their name and likeness for advertising or marketing purposes

Something like…

The Winner(s) of the Campaign (the “Winner”) will receive [sweepstakes prize]. Value of [sweepstakes prize value]. Actual/appraised value may differ at time of prize award. The specifics of the prize shall be solely determined by [Sweepstakes Owner]. No cash or other prize substitution shall be permitted except at [Sweepstakes Owner] discretion. The prize is nontransferable. Any and all prize-related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes, shall be the sole responsibility of Winner. No substitution of prize or transfer/assignment of prize to others or request for the cash equivalent by Winner is permitted. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for [Sweepstakes Owner] to use Winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.

Sweepstakes Rules #6. Odds

Simple and to the point, your “odds” section simply clarifies that the chance of winning depends on the number of entrants.

If your sweepstakes has a voting component, clarify that in this section as well.

Sweepstakes Rules #7. Winner Selection and Notification

This section, essentially, states how you’ll be selecting your winner (randomly, usually, with Sweepstakes) and how you’ll notify them.

You also cover what happens if they fail to respond or fail to receive the email (due to spam or email security settings) after you announce the contest winner.

You need to cover what your policy is about prize forfeiture, and whether you’ll award the prize to another winner if the initial winner fails to get in touch.

Something like…

Winner will be selected [Sweepstakes Winner Selection Method] under the supervision of [Sweepstakes Owner]. Winner will be notified by [winner notification method] within [time period] following selection of Winner. [Sweepstakes Owner] shall have no liability for Winner’s failure to receive notices due to spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for Winner’s provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If Winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within 30 days from the time award notification was sent, or fails to timely return a completed and executed declaration and release as required, the prize may be forfeited and an alternate Winner selected. Receipt by Winner of the prize offered in this Campaign is conditioned upon compliance with any and all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. ANY VIOLATION OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES BY WINNER (at [Sweepstakes Owner] sole discretion) WILL RESULT IN WINNER’S DISQUALIFICATION AS WINNER OF THE CAMPAIGN, AND ALL PRIVILEGES AS WINNER WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED.

Sweepstakes Rules #8. Rights Granted by You

This is a big one, as it’s where you run into the biggest danger of getting in trouble. If you use content submitted by your sweepstakes entrants and they haven’t agreed to that distribution, you can be straight-up sued.

And nobody needs that.

To protect yourself, cover your bases with some all-inclusive, all-powerful legalese.

Something like…

By entering this content (e.g., photo, video, text, etc.), You understand and agree that [Sweepstakes Owner], anyone acting on behalf of [Sweepstakes Owner], and [Sweepstakes Owner] licensees, successors, and assigns, shall have the right, where permitted by law, to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, and use in any media now known or hereafter developed, in perpetuity and throughout the World, without limitation, your entry, name, portrait, picture, voice, likeness, image, statements about the Campaign, and biographical information for news, publicity, information, trade, advertising, public relations, and promotional purposes. without any further compensation, notice, review, or consent.

Sweepstakes Rules #9. Privacy Policy

Your company’s privacy policy (what you do with the personal information given to you) is another document entirely from your sweepstakes rules or the terms and conditions associated with your sweepstakes.

Within your sweepstakes rules, though, you should mention to contest entrants that you will abide by your privacy policy.

Something like…

Information submitted with an entry is subject to the Privacy Policy stated on the [Sweepstakes Owner] website.

Shopify has a great privacy policy generator.

Free Sweepstakes Template

We’ve created a simple fill-in-the-blank template for quickly creating Sweepstakes rules. Remember, this is just a guide. If you want to ensure you’re within the bounds of law, have an attorney sign off on any rules, regulations and etc.

The following sweepstakes rules template is based primarily off North American sweepstakes run by Wishpond customers. There may be regional laws which aren’t covered here:

Wrapping it Up

Hopefully this guide has given you enough understanding of sweepstakes contest rules that you’ll run a successful contest without any unforeseen eventualities.

If you have any legal questions regarding sweepstakes rules, speak with a legal representative. If you have any general sweepstakes questions, though, let me know in the comment section!

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