Best Practices for Running a Video Contest

Crash the Super Bowl entryIf you’re a B2C marketer, have you ever thought about running a video contest?

The prospect of including consumers in the brand communication process seems daunting at first. But let’s face it: your customers are already talking about you on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. So why not help shape the conversation?

guidelines for a winning video contest

Putting together a successful video contest is no simple matter, especially as video contests gain in popularity. While your contest may not capture the attention of Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl Contest, these tips can give you a better-than-average chance of success:

  • Be aware of legalities up front
    As with sweepstakes and other types of contests, holding a video contest carries legal implications. Seek legal counsel when defining your contest rules and T&Cs. In particular, be sure to protect your business against submissions that include copyrighted material and obtain the rights to use content online as well as offline.
  • Know your goal
    Are you trying to build word-of mouth through viral video? Or are you more interested in increasing engagement? You may be simply trying to better understand how consumers perceive your brand. Regardless of the objective of your video contest, defining it at the start is crucial.
  • Set a strong premise
    To attract interest and entries, you need a strong theme that invokes passion and creativity in your target audience. Think about the role your brand plays in your customers’ lives and the type of content your target audience would be interested in watching and sharing. Perhaps there is even a theme in the videos that fans are already creating around your brand. Some possibilities:

    • Create a contest that lets people show off their talents.
    • Harness content already being produced (e.g. think baby or pet video) to help attract entries.
    • Tap into rivalries between cities, schools or demographics.
    • Inspire blue sky thinking along the lines of ‘what would you do if…?’ For instance, Garnier Fructis’ latest video contest asks participants to describe the most amazing, fearless thing they have ever done – or would like to do.
  • Offer prizes that fit your target audience and goal
    Big cash prizes can generate a lot of interest, but it is often the more unique or niche prizes (sometimes combined with a juicy cash prize) that get better results. For example, the 2009 Tourism Queensland ‘Best Job in the World’ contest offered the winner the unusual opportunity of touring and blogging about the Great Barrier Reef for 6 months. This contest attracted over 34,000 entries and an estimated $400 million worth of media coverage.


    Get creative to come up with incentives that will appeal to your target market and drive sales. Celebrity encounters or access to exclusive events may be more valuable to participants than cash prizes. Including supplementary and shared prizes can be helpful to engage audiences for a longer time or encourage more participants. To get a combination of high quality entries and viral buzz, consider giving prizes to entrants with the most views or votes as well as to handpicked winners.

  • Promote, promote, promote
    The sad reality is that a lot of video contests fail to attract much attention. To engage your target audience, consider the following ideas:

    • Create a contest video that explains the premise and prizes, describes how to enter, and includes a call to action. Then use the contest video to engage communities on Facebook and on contest directory sites like
    • Employ Facebook ads and Google Adwords to deliver targeted traffic to your contest.
    • Use your print materials, packaging and in-store signage to drive customers to your contest.
    • Add a link to your contest from your corporate website.
    • Create an entertaining viral video that subtly promotes your contest while provoking an emotional response from the viewer. For tips on what makes for viral video, watch this clip from YouTube’s Trends Manager:
  • Give your contest time
    It may take several weeks for interest to spread and for solid entries to accumulate. Rule of thumb: allow a minimum of 2-4 months for your contest to run. To encourage early entry, think about letting votes tally up from the start or offering prizes for the nth number of votes.

    Consider holidays, corporate events and the submission deadlines of other major contests when finalizing your timing.

  • Re-purpose content wherever possible
    Being on the receiving end of a truckload of free user-generated video content has its benefits. For instance, you’re able to re-use the clips wherever you like which increases the life of the campaign. A few possibilities:

    • Add search-engine-optimized entries to your YouTube channel to drive traffic and awareness.
    • Include videos relating to your products, company or service in your corporate website to engage customers and stakeholders.
    • Feature clips on your social networks to increase encourage interaction.