Brands often use giveaways as a marketing tool to create buzz among the consuming public. When done correctly, businesses can see an increase in revenue and consumer loyalty through use of giveaways. However, when a giveaway campaign is poorly structured, brands can suffer irreversible reputational harm. A recent example of a giveaway gone wrong concerns one offered by Reese Witherspoon’s fashion line, Draper James, LLC (“Draper James”). The subject Draper James Instagram giveaway post read: “Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress.” The post did go on to explain that a registration form needed to be completed and that the offer was only “valid while supplies last.” Despite the additional language, the Draper James disclosure proved to be insufficient. After publishing the promotional post, many of the thousands of teachers who signed up believed that they would each receive a free dress, when, in reality, teachers were entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win one of only a limited 250 dresses available to entrants. After nearly one million entries were received, Draper James’ sweepstakes site crashed. Teachers who did not receive a dress went to social media to express their outrage about the deceptive giveaway. In an attempt to quell the firestorm, Draper James: 1) publicized that it would make an unspecified donation earmarked to help educators support their remote classrooms; and 2) gave every registrant a Draper James discount code. How this response plays out both in the court of public opinion and with regulators, remains to be seen. The Draper James campaign example is a reminder to brands that they need to use clear language to explain when a promotion is, in fact, really a sweepstakes and not a giveaway with prizes provided to all who sign up. In order to avoid situations similar to this, it is wise to speak with a promotions law attorney who is familiar with the nuances of sweepstakes law and other games of skill and chance.
What should brands know when offering giveaways?