When we hear the term “cash sweepstakes” the first thing we think of is probably Publisher’s Clearing House. If that is the case it’s likely because PCH is brilliant at keeping their name front and center in our minds. From direct mail to commercial television they’re in our face as often as possible. In 1967, after Reader’s Digest had celebrated four years of successful sweepstake promoting PCH decided to try its hand and some forty-five years later it’s still going strong. Inarguably sweeps are an effective means of marketing and promotion – history has proven this many times over.
There’s little wonder why sponsors use sweeps to raise brand awareness and drive sales. It works – nothing more needs to be said. Why, however, are we so drawn to these contests of chance? It is because many of us find the promise of “something for nothing” simply irresistible. We play, despite the fact that in a contest for cash, the odds are surely stacked against us. In giveaway #1400, for instance, Publishers posted odds of 1 in 1.75 billion. One hundred seventy five billion to one; can you even imagine? According to the National Lightning Safety Institute your odds of being struck by lightening are 1 in 280,000. So in actual fact, you are far more likely to be a victim of a lightning strike than you are to win PCH’s millions. Most of us don’t walk around actively fearing lightning because the odds are so very slight, yet we’ll chance exponentially large odds in contests for cash or prizes. Of course, when it comes to giveaways (unlike lightning), we have nothing to lose. Current federal lottery law strictly prohibits any costs associated with play, it is even illegal for a promoter to charge you shipping and handling to receive your prize. Given the fact that it costs us nothing but a little bit of our time to play; the odds don’t matter overmuch.
The Internet is littered with sweepstakes; some cash based and others solely for prizes. When values range from as little as one dollar to upwards of a million the probability of winning varies proportionately. Your best bets are the lower value contests – I mean everyone has won an order of fries from McDonald’s Monopoly game right? So peel off that sticker, fill out that online form and mail-in that card but don’t hold your breath. Someone will win big, this is true but the odds say it won’t be you or me.