Tag Archives: online competitions

Winning Formula: Examples of Creative Online Competitions

Are you running an online competition as part of your SEO strategy? A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the key ingredients that every online giveaway needs. This week I’m focussing on arguably the most important ingredient of them all: how to come up with that creative angle that captures the hearts and minds of your audience.

Here are three examples of creative online competitions to give you inspiration for your next campaign. In each case, I’ve outlined why they work and what you can learn from them.


Example 1: Time Out’s London Tube Competition

Time Out London competition

Angle: Game of skill
Prize: Six month London Travelcard
Channel: Website

This ultra-fun competition from Time Out kept most of the Verve office busy one cold winter morning earlier this year. You had to identify as many Zone 1 London Tube stations as you could within the allotted time limit, then by submitting your email address you could win a six-month London Travelcard worth £600 (winner chosen at random). Props to Josie Sampson for getting the most right in the office. I did pretty badly for someone who commutes through Zone 1 every day.

The giveaway worked because it was the perfect engaging and fun game for Time Out’s London-loving readers. The competition page got 1,323 Facebook likes, and Time Out got plenty of new mailing list sign ups (the requirement of entry). If there’s one thing they could have done differently, it would have been to provide a prize that all Londoners would want – many already have a Travelcard and the rest don’t need it.


Fun and engaging games of skill that resonate with your target audience are a great way to get people involved. They will also provide a piece of evergreen content long after the giveaway is over, and might even pick up some links.


Example 2: Threadless’s Lion King Competition

Lion King competition

Angle: Design challenge
Prize: $5,000 and your name in lights
Channel: Website

The whole Threadless business model is based around the idea of online competitions. You design a t-shirt, and the best ones are printed and sold on the Threadless website. Being a big fan of old-school Disney movies, my eyes were drawn to their current Lion King-themed challenge. Users have 20 days to come up with their own design based on the Lion King and the best one, as voted for by the Threadless community, wins $5,000 cash.

Themed competitions like this are a great way for Threadless to attract new users to the site with niche interests, and the cash prize is big enough for these budding designers to make the effort. After all, it’s a great opportunity to get your name out there and have your t-shirt worn by people all over the world.


You can source new business assets for free by getting your community to design a t-shirt, mug, poster or even a new logo. Just be aware that fewer people will enter than a Twitter giveaway because it requires more of a commitment. You can also engage your community by getting them involved in the voting process.


Example 3: Win a scholarship with KFC

KFC Twitter Contest

Angle: Creative answer
Prize: A $20,000 scholarship
Channel: Twitter

I feel a bit bad writing about a big brand, but this Twitter competition generated quite a buzz for KFC back in 2010 and was one of the first of its kind. Participants could win a $20,000 university scholarship by sending a tweet with the hashtag #KFCScholar saying why they deserved to win. 2,800 people entered, and the epic prize eventually went to Amanda Russell for her tweet:

“#KFCScholar Hey Colonel! Your scholarship’s the secret ingredient missing from my recipe for success! Got the grades, drive, just need cash!”

Why was the giveaway a success? It made KFC look good in front of their target audience of families by showing that they care about education. The prize offered a solution to the problem faced by many teenage participants (how the hell do I pay for my university fees?), and it also engaged teens on a platform they use, namely Twitter.


Adapting a time-worn strategy from the offline world and bringing it into the digital age is a great way to come up with new ideas (although Twitter giveaways are a bit passe now). To find an epic prize, simply identify your audience’s pain point and provide them with a solution.