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Time to End Sweepstakes as a Primary Activation Program?

It has long been my role to share examples of successful sponsorships and the ways brands bring them to life through promotional programs. Common questions I ask of summit and round-table speakers, podcast guests, etc. are: “Can you share an example of how you are engaging with fans around your current sponsorships?” “What activations or experiential elements are you most proud of related to your recent partnerships?”


And for a while now, I’ve been surprised—and somewhat disheartened—by the large number of smart marketers who quickly tout a “win a chance at a VIP experience” contest and who can’t wait to share the “compelling content” that was produced of the winners enjoying their behind-the-scenes tours and being surprised and delighted by meeting their favorite athlete, musician, etc.


Certainly sweepstakes and contests can generate excitement and media coverage, as well as encourage consumers to share information in order to enter. But in a social-media-fueled era where an individual’s own experiences are paramount—and merely watching someone else’s induces FOMO, not excitement—promotions that highlight a single winner seem like a relic from a distant past.


That’s why it was encouraging to read about developments at MasterCard, which for a long time now has forged brilliant sponsorship programs based on deep insights into consumer passion points but, truth be told, also has provided “Priceless Moments” to just one person.


A recent Event Marketer article explored MasterCard’s strategic and tactical shift. As an example, the piece points out that the brand’s new partnership with the National Women’s Soccer League will include a chance for card holders attending matches to win a VIP Game Day Experience, but there also will be virtual experiences on Priceless.com for everyone else.


The article quotes MasterCard Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Raja Rajamannar: “Going forward, with the advancements of technology and our own technological skills, I see experiences and fan engagement being something that maintains a dual approach—enabling that more intimate one-to-one or one-to-few experience, while also creating space and opportunity for people to participate remotely so we’re not bound by geographical and physical boundaries.”


Those remarks portend that while for MasterCard and the other leading brands that are similarly changing their approach there is a role for “one-to-one” or “one-to-few” promotions, it should probably be as a supporting player and not the lead.


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