Tips on Running Global Promotions

You hear it all the time — go global. There is a wide world of market share across the oceans just waiting to be captured.

Marketing messages are being designed to appeal to audiences across age, gender, cultural and geographic barriers. Web sites can reach both intended and unintended audiences that can augment complications as well as revenue opportunities.

In the complex world of promotions and sweepstakes, going global is much easier said than done.

If you think that the conflicting sweepstakes laws in each of the 50 states is difficult to get your arms around, imagine trying to give away prizes in such exotic locations as Argentina, Singapore, Brazil, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia or Spain. Every country has its own legal system for regulating promotions, and every one is different. And in many countries those regulations are subject to change on a minute’s notice.

U.S.-based companies are recognizing that the benefits of sweepstakes and contests translate well in other cultures.

A Fortune 100 software developer recently ran a Web-based software development contest for a new programming language. The promotion was live in about 15 countries and received entries from all of them. As a result, with only a modest increase in cost per eligible jurisdiction, the company expanded the reach of its marketing goals exponentially. The promotion created worldwide excitement about its new product.

Requirements outside the United States vary not only by country, but within countries as well.

Canada is a perfect example. All Canadian provinces have sweepstakes laws similar to those in the various U.S. states. They allow sweepstakes as long as consideration (something of value) is not required for entry, and do not require bonding or registration of the promotion — except for Quebec, which has a unit of government that exists to register and monitor all sweepstakes and promotions. Quebec also requires bonding of any prizes to be given away and that rules and regulations are translated into French.

As a result, as with Florida and New York, many companies inexperienced in managing sweepstakes and promotions will exclude residents of Quebec from eligibility in Canadian-based sweepstakes and contests. This lack of familiarity with local laws costs them entry into perhaps the richest Canadian market of all.

Even familiarity with local laws can be insufficient. A major U.S.-based airline and a large credit card provider are currently running joint promotions that include sweepstakes in five countries – Australia (which has complex registration requirements in various provinces), New Zealand, Singapore, England and Canada. The promotions are designed to encourage customers to buy airline tickets with the company’s credit card. It had hoped to run a sixth sweepstakes as part of its promotion — in Brazil. When the idea was proposed (on a Thursday), Brazil had a law requiring 30 days advance registration of any sweepstakes with the appropriate governmental body (along with many other legal hoops). By the time the sweepstakes idea got internal approval (the following Tuesday), Brazil had changed the registration requirement to 60 days.

Literally, and without prior notification or warning, the law changed from one day to the next. Given the time frame for the promotion, the sweepstakes had to be scrapped for that market.

As with all sweepstakes and promotions, the important thing is to read the inside of the box top before you play the game. In addition to understanding the rules and restrictions for each country, here is a short checklist of things to consider before deciding to head across the border with your sweepstakes or contest:

• Leave yourself plenty of time. This will allow for those surprises, as in Brazil, that could derail your planning.

• Recognize the subdivisions. Like the United States, many countries are subdivided into states, provinces, etc. Make sure that you address the potential for differences in the various regions within a country.

• Know the language. Many countries require that a promotion open to its citizens has at least the rules and regulations translated into the native tongue. This can affect companies seeking to target a particular market (such as Spanish speakers in this country) without spending a lot of money.

• Know the naysayers. As with the states in this country, some countries care a lot about promotions and their effect while others do not. Recognizing which ones are which can save dollars on your sweepstakes costs.

• Online, offline, border line. There can be a huge difference between allowing the “eligibility” of residents of another country, common in some Internet promotions, and actively promoting your contest or sweepstakes within that country. A leading online search engine, for example, ran a promotion directed at Australian residents, but did all of its advertising and promotion online. This affected which registration requirements it had to comply with and greatly affected the cost of the promotion. Understanding what your objectives are and which plan is right for you can greatly affect your bottom line and the success of your promotion.

The Internet has freed a tremendous opportunity for companies seeking to expand their market base without incurring significant costs. Sweepstakes and promotions are a great tool for enhancing international (and domestic) marketing plans, and any company looking to expand its customer base should be looking abroad. Just make sure that when you are incentivizing your customers and prospects to tell you about themselves or buy your product, your lack of international sweepstakes savvy is not also incentivizing a foreign government to give you an unfriendly welcome.

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