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Contests More than Fun and Games, Attorneys Say


What to do if you held a “name the whale” contest, as Greenpeace once did, and the winning name is “Mr. Splashypants?”

Or if you offered a free Whopper to anyone who de-friended 20 people on Facebook, and then got a massive run on Burger Kings?

Or if you printed 1,500 tokens, as did Ultramar, three of which were supposed to offer $1,500 of free gas, but mistakenly three did NOT include that offer and all the rest did?

Contests are fun and a great marketing tool, but franchisors that launch them need to do so correctly.

That’s the word from attorneys who spoke at the recent International Franchising Association’s Legal Symposium. In one of many seminars, attorneys from Luxottica Group, Kilpatrick Townsend and Osler Hoskin & Harcourt offered the three cases above to illustrate the potential pitfalls.

Their bottom line: Make sure you’ve thought it through. For example, beware of including minors as eligible contestants, because that opens up many more rules and regulations than when constricted to those over 18.

As for the scenarios above, they offered this advice:

Always reserve your own right to handle results in the way you see fit, to avoid awkward moments. Greenpeace did so, the attorneys said, and so simply posted the silly name as one of the entrants, but chose another name as the overall winner.

Don’t launch a Facebook contest centered around de-friending, because after Burger King did so Facebook barred the practice. Plus, franchisees were not pleased when so many people showed up demanding free Whoppers.

And finally, own up if there’s a mistake. In Ultramar’s case, they announced the problem, then held a drawing of all the winning token holders for three to receive the prize.

“Be honest with your public, because your public won’t keep it quiet,” said Kelley O’Brien, interactive media manager for Krispy Kreme and also a panelist.


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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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