Brands stay ahead of the competition

Brands that run competitions on Facebook are on to a winner, with data collection and customer engagement being the prize assets that marketers are chasing.


The days when an on-pack competition to win a fortnight in the Caribbean persuaded consumers to part with their personal information have been replaced by more engaging competitions with the aim of building a deeper relationship with customers.

Competitions have now become part of a long-term marketing strategy, with Facebook playing a huge part in driving awareness and engagement by adding personalisation to the process.

Andy Smith, senior brand manager for Batchelors at Premier Foods, points to the wealth of information that can be gathered via competitions, which he argues provides much more than a database of emails to which discount vouchers can be fired out.

“The value of data can’t be underestimated,” he says. “This data isn’t just email addresses, it is people who are engaging with your brand and who have opted in, rather than forgotten to untick a box. By launching a competition you’ve done the hard work and earned the right to communicate with them. The challenge is to stay relevant.”

Continental Tyres has a drive across the Sahara up for grabs

Brands are increasingly running competitions on social media sites to get closer to their most loyal customers, build up a strong sense of what motivates them and then respond to their needs and aspirations accordingly. Get it right and last year’s winners can become this year’s promoters.

The other benefit of running competitions on social media channels is the wealth of data about the entrants they generate, which can then be used to form longer-term relationships.

Alex Packham, head of social media at Odeon, says: “Competitions and the data they generate are becoming the foundation of making our guests’ marketing and cinema experience much more personal. Competitions give us the opportunity to get across commercial marketing messages with an added incentive for our guests to engage with the brand.”

Odeon frequently runs ‘book to win’ style competitions on its website, the most recent being for its Facebook fans who booked two or more tickets for blockbuster film Prometheus. Run in conjunction with 20th Century Fox, Odeon used paid media to target social gamers via SuperSonic Ads, which resulted in a “substantial increase” of app users and revenue.

Competitions via social media are becoming more and more innovative, but brands do need to ensure that they are always relevant, says Packham. “We’ve developed a comprehensive loyalty scheme database where giving members exclusive access to competitions is a key to acquisition and continued engagement with the Odeon brand,” he explains. “Once they are members they are given further access to exclusive content and competitions, ensuring our relationship with them creates value from their perspective [opportunities to win great prizes] as well as ours [customer data].

“Data and information is incredibly valuable from a brand’s perspective, and it’s also very important to demonstrate the value to guests of being opted in to any of our marketing channels be it email or social. Relevance is absolutely key, and it’s imperative to gather a breadth of information to ensure that the communications delivered on the back of the data are targeted based on interest, and thus valuable from the recipient’s perspective.”

Competitions also raise brand awareness. Peter Robb, brand and advertising manager at Continental Tyres, explains the thinking behind his brand’s Conti4x4Trophy activity, which offers the chance to drive a Hummer across the Sahara: “Continental Tyres needed to raise awareness that ‘Continental’ wasn’t just an airline. There’s more chance of people taking note of a competition than an ad in the paper,” he claims.

Unexpected benefits

The competition started in Belgium where it’s now in its fifth year. This is the second year of the competition in the UK, after a first in which there were some unexpected benefits. Robb says: “There were a total of 14 winning teams and they formed such a close relationship on the trip that when they got back they set up their own Facebook page and invited us to join. They’ve helped to promote the competition this year and recommended a lot more people to join in.”

Brands are switching to weekly prizes as a way of keeping people engaged for longer

Dan Daly, Auto Trader

For Robb, continuous engagement is what drives a great competition. He admits they asked entrants to “do quite a lot” in order to make the final draw, with weekly challenges and activity on Facebook and Twitter. “You had to do quite a bit more than write down your name and address and throw it into the hat. But people are willing to engage and do more these days.”

But brands do not have to offer trips of a lifetime to generate that engagement. The appeal of smaller, more frequent prizes has also stimulated this increased engagement by making winning seem more realistic. “I think brands are switching to weekly prizes as a way of keeping people engaged for longer,” says Auto Trader head of consumer marketing Dan Daly.

Auto Trader’s Golden Key competition, for instance, offered daily prizes to those who could solve clues. The format was chosen as a way of raising awareness of the website’s improved search facility – 1.5 million searches were carried out as a result and there was an “uplift in sales”. However, one of the more intriguing developments was the interaction between consumers.

“People were helping each other to search for clues and sometimes working in groups,” says Daly. “A community started to develop online and it showed just how much people were willing to engage with one another [even in a competitive environment]. There seemed to be a gravitas attached with helping others.”

Indeed, one of the great challenges facing companies wanting to use social media in their competitions is how to encourage people to share in a competitive environment.

One tactic to ensure that entrants spread the word is to offer ‘double entries’ for recommendations. The other is to make entries personal. FindaProperty managed to do just that with ‘rap for a cause’ – a competition that encouraged people to rap about their property needs. The rendition with the highest number of ‘likes’ on Facebook received £10,000 for the charity of their choice.

From the very start the intention was for the prize to go to a cause rather than an individual, and that had some positive repercussions as the competition matured. Sheraz Dar, group marketing director at The Digital Property Group, explains: “Towards the end we had celebrities getting involved. Some gotinvolved when others made them aware of itvia Twitter, while others had it flagged up to them by the charities they support. It gavethe whole thing momentum.”

The winner received supportive tweets from Russell Brand, who has 4.6 million followers.

Professional entrants

Dar is already working on the second strand of the campaign, which will attract a “more professional entrant” with the chance of the rap appearing in advertising. “The first activity was about rapping for a cause. The next part will be offering something that money can’t buy.”


Competitions like this can create somegreat content for future marketing and communications, as well as adverts. Auto Trader’s latest competition, which was launched as part of a new campaign to celebrate the brand’s 35th anniversary, is based on the emotive stories created by owning a car, with users sharing their stories online.

The winners will have their stories turned into films and Auto Trader’s Daly intends to use the content in the future, perhaps using some of it for an advert. “It’s a bit of test for us, so who knows how it will go,” he adds.

Taking a risk or two can pay off. Builders might not be the obvious target for a competition that involves QR codes and elements of social media, but the levels of engagement that cement manufacture Lafarge’s Big Boys Toys activity generated were a “real eye opener” says marketing manager Mike Lomax.

Lafarge sells to merchants and not direct to the end user, so having the ‘middle man’ on board with the competition was critical. In all, there were 1,000 merchants registered and the more their customers bought Mastercrete, the more chance they had of winning too.

This data isn’t just email addresses, it is people who are engaging with your brand

Andy Smith, Batchelors

“One merchant got right behind the activity and saw penetration increase by between 43% and 52% across their sites,” explains Lomax. “They promoted it themselves and that was key. If you are dealing with a third party then you need to make sure they are right behind you.”

In the quest to engage with consumers, brands are increasingly looking at ways in which they can create meaningful, mutually beneficial partnerships and with that comes the opportunity to add value for the consumer – both during and after the competition.

Brand in the Spotlight Q&A


Paul Stevens
Head of ecommerce and insight

Marketing Week (MW): How have you used competitions recently?

Paul Stevens (PS): With purchases we can offer entry into competitions. For example, customers ordering Justin Bieber’s new album on had a chance to win a place at a special secret gig. We took half the pre-order market with that competition.

MW: How do you maintain that level of engagement?

PS: In the past, we’ve been guilty of doing the obvious things with the data we get from that kind of competition, such as using it to market the artist’s next album. But all the fans would know about any release so it’s not the best way of using the data. We are always looking to give customers reasons to tell us who they are and what they like. So, people who like Justin Bieber might like X, Y or Z too. They are the things we’ll get incremental sales from.

MW: Are competitions best used for acquisition or retention?

PS: Both. Well-placed competitions, particularly now on social media sites, can get you in front of a new audience which you then have an opportunity to develop a relationship with. You can also use competitions to engage with your longer-term customers and regularly connect with them as part of a wider rewards dialogue.

MW: What are the most innovative ways marketers are using competitions?

PS: There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening through social media right now that allows participants to share stuff with their friends and followers, but the key thing is to have engaging competitions that are interactive in some way. These not only help to support and grow a relationship through your brand but ultimately also help to drive store and online traffic, enabling you to generate both sales and customer insight.

Case study

Batchelors Fuelling Britain


Batchelors Fuelling Britain activity – created by Haygarth – offered a daily prize of a free tank of fuel and a weekly chance to win free fuel for a year. To make the experience of entering the competition online more useful for entrants, Batchelors offered exclusive content such as details of the nearest, lowest petrol prices through a tool powered by

“We looked at what’s important to our customers and how are they are feeling,” explains senior brand manager Andy Smith. “We found a sweet spot between our brand – a product that fuels the nation’s mums and families – and high fuel costs. We timed the competition around the Budget, which made it ‘of the moment’. We beat our target number of entries by 38% because it was relevant and we offered more than just a prize.”

The competition also provided a great deal of data on consumers, both old and new. Smith says that to have any chance of continuing that conversation with those ‘engaged consumers’ the content will need to be relevant. “The more you communicate with them, the more you learn from them,” he adds. “This data isn’t just a list of email contacts. We’ve earned the right to engage with them thanks to the competition – the challenge is to stay relevant.”



Premier League clubs’ focus switches to data in Asia

Seb Joseph

As one of the biggest markets for Premier League teams, Asia offers a plethora of revenue generating opportunities. For the likes of Arsenal, Queens Park Rangers and Manchester City, who are all preparing to travel to the region on pre-season tours, the trips are no longer smash and grab raids to sell replica shirts but an exercise in data capture designed to create additional value for sponsors.


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