Five Popular Contest Marketing Formats

March 25, 2019

The popularity of social media in combination with a number of contest marketing technologies available, the bar is being raised for contesting brands can leverage online. In this article, you will learn about five different types of contest marketing formats that are available and the benefits of each.

Share & Win Contest

A share & win is a contesting format that incentivizes fans and customers who enter to share the contest with their friends. This is our personal favorite and we always incorporate a sharing incentive into any type of contest we are running for our clients as it can only boost the level of reach and engagement when done right.

Where most brands get this wrong is they will incorporate social sharing widgets, but they won’t give their fans and customers an incentive to share. After running 100s of campaigns over the years, we have proven time and time again that it is absolutely critical to offer an incentive to share if you want to maximize sharing participation.

In the below example, entrants were offered an additional entry every time they shared. This gives people a reason to share. When you only put social sharing widgets without any incentive it’s typically ineffective. Why would people want to share a contest they are trying to win if there is nothing in it for themShare & Win

Share & Win Contest Format
Social Sharing Example

User-Generated Content

UGC contesting is a format that incentivizes fans and customers to submit a specific photo or video following a set of rules decided by the brand. This can either be through a custom digital property such as a microsite, on social media leveraging a hashtag or sometimes both.

This contest marketing format is quickly gaining popularity as Instagram becomes the predominant social media network. When executed properly, it can create unparalleled levels of interaction and brand awareness.

Another valuable component to UGC contests is it opens up your brand to a plethora of native content that can be recycled on your own social media and digital properties.

An example of a UGC contest format being utilized was the #SLOWMOCHALLENGE created to promote the Baywatch release starring The Rock and Zac Efron. Baywatch is infamous for its slow-motion beach running scenes. The contest gave people a chance to win tickets to the movie premiere in LA by submitting their own slow-motion video on Instagram with the hastag #slowmochallenge.

It was an unbelievable success that even celebrities and influencers took part in because it was so fun for everyone. They ended up generating 10s of millions of impressions on social, major press, and it accomplished creating awareness for the upcoming movie release.

Baywatch Slowmochallenge Contest
Baywatch UGC Contest

Voting Contest

Voting contests are when you require contest participants to vote on something in order to be entered to win. These types of contests are best utilized when trying to collect customer insights at scale.

Perhaps you have an upcoming product release and aren’t sure of the colors it should be, or the name, or certain features that should be integrated. Voting not only gives your customers a voice and allows them to get involved with your brand, but it also provides valuable insights on what your customers think is best.

Although not required, the voting is typically related around specific products or services that you offer. A great example of a company that leverages this contest format every year is M&M’s. This year, the contest is asking for people to vote on a flavor of M&M’s for a chance to win a trip around the world.

Something to note, their grand prize is directly related to the subject of what their participants are voting on. They have to vote between three flavors; Mexican Jalapeño Peanut, Thai Coconut Peanut, and English Toffee Peanut. This was a nice touch as the prize complemented what customers are voting on.

M&M's Voting Contest
M&M's Voting Contest

Text Submission Contest

A text submission contest asks your fans and customers to submit a text submission around a specific set of parameters that you put in place. There are many ways this can be utilized. A few examples are asking people to submit your next slogan, asking them to submit a testimonial for your brand, or even something as simple as submitting a joke.

You also have the opportunity to take a more creative route. For example, you can ask customers to submit a story about someone who you think deserves to win the prize, or a story related to your specific product or industry. Similar to UGC, the sky is the limit when it comes to this type of contest format.

A great example of how this looks is a contest ran by 4Vets4Life, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing vital assistance and support for wounded veterans. They offer a $100,000 cash payment for veterans to help them get them back on their feet.

Participants were asked to submit a story around a veteran of their choice. They also integrated a voting element. This enables stories to be voted on publicly and the prize rewarded to the Veterans who received the most votes.

4Vet4Life Text Submission Contest
4Vet4Life Text Submission Contest

Instant Win Contest

An instant win contest format offers a prize for everyone involved, usually alongside a grand prize. This is a phenomenal contest format when you have coupons and offers that you’d like to get into as many hands as possible.

When running instant wins, we typically suggest also offering a grand prize. This ensures that you are maximizing the incentive for people to participate.

Nobody has mastered the art of the instant win better than McDonald’s Monopoly promotion. On the monopoly pieces that come with your McDonald’s purchases you typically have 1:4 odds to win something for free.

A few years ago, McDonald’s also incorporated a digital element to this contest. Each game piece is incorporated with a code that you can enter into an online portal. This gives you a shot to win a bigger prize, but also offers tons of instant win prizes so everyone can feel some sense of reward while playing this game.

McDonald's Instant Win Contest
McDonald's Instant Win Contest


There you have it, five different contest formats and the benefits of each. I hope you find this guide helpful when determining the contest format that is right for your brand.

Are you interested in chatting about leveraging our technology and services to help put your contest marketing in auto-pilot? If so, please reach out to us through the contact form or feel free to reach out to us directly at