What is the Difference between a Competition and a Giveaway? (Or the Difference Between a Contest and a Sweepstake)

What’s the difference between a competition and a giveaway?  What’s the difference between a contest and a sweepstake?

It’s a very common question, and whilst sometimes these words are used interchangeably, and certain words can be used to generically cover all types of promotion, there are differences.  Here’s what they are:

Competition (word used in the UK and other countries) or Contest (word used in the US)

A competition or contest is a type of promotion where the entry method is skill-based.  Entrants are judged qualitatively on their entry and that is how a winner is selected.  There are compliance requirements around judging in different countries (including the UK, in the CAP Code, section 8, pertaining to an independent judge).

Giveaway (UK) or Sweepstake(s) (US)

A giveaway or sweepstake/sweepstakes is a prize draw from qualifying entries.  Entrants do not differentiate themselves qualitatively, and are thus drawn randomly for winner selection.  Entrants can, depending on the giveaway mechanic quantitatively differentiate themselves by gaining extra entries, which may improve their odds of winning.  There are compliance requirements too, relating to prize draws and in some countries and territories, giveaways or sweepstakes (i.e. no-skill based entry) are not allowed, like Sweden, Ireland, and Quebec in Canada.


Lotteries are typically covered under separate rules and legislation to prize promotions.  A definition of a lottery will vary depending on the country it is held in, but generally a lottery is considered as a paid entry random prize draw.  In some cases a lottery definition can be avoided by making the entry skill-based, or providing an accessible free-to-enter option.  In some cases also, lotteries run by charities or for charitable purposes can be exempted from the compliance requirements of a commercial lottery.

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