PROSPECTING: The sweepstakes list lottery

Are contest names a winner?

Now that lottery-style games and sweepstakes have multiplied, thanks largely to the Internet, a growing pool of prospect names has become available to direct marketers. A scan of the SRDSdatabase of lists shows more than 300 files of lottery, sweepstakes, and puzzle players. Sweepstakes Internet sites such as, for instance, have put their lists of players on the market. But many catalogers have found that these prospects can be as dicey as the games that attracted them.

“We’ve tried lists from sweeps and contests, but it’s become clear to us that [such names] are just not useful,” says Mike Muoio, president/ CEO of Oshkosh, WI-based general merchandise mailer Miles Kimball. “Catalog buyers are older and usually more affluent than the demographics created by sweeps. It’s the same with Web-based contests – they’re just not our buyers.”

David Hochberg, spokesman for Rye, NY-based general merchandise catalog Lillian Vernon, agrees. “We’ve tested sweeps and contest-generated names and they don’t work well for us. They aren’t necessarily mail order buyers, and their household incomes tend to be low.”

Celine Apamyan, a broker with Toluca Lake, CA-based TCI List Management, says that her clients aren’t ready to mail to Web-generated names, and that recent legislation against sweepstakes mailers Publishers Clearing House and American Family has also dampened interest in those names. Still, Apamyan hopes sweepstakes names will rebound, because some of TCI’s clients have mailed to those names successfully. “They worked in the low-end and middle-class sectors, and they captured women who stayed home.”

While Fingerhut doesn’t include sweeps-generated lists in its acquisition strategy, the Minnetonka, MN-based general merchandiser does run its own sweepstakes program, says Jim Wehmann, vice president of marketing. “We feel it’s a way of recognizing customers who shop with us throughout the year.” The cataloger does make its list of approximately 300,000 sweepstakes nonrespondents – those who enter but don’t order – available to renters, but Wehmann couldn’t say how much interest the list generates among mailers. (The base cost is $70/M – significantly less than the paid buyer file’s cost of $85/M.)

Nick Schellong, vice president/ accounts manager at Cos Cob, CT-based AZ Marketing Services, says such names can be valuable to direct marketers, however. His firm manages Michigan Bulb’s list of 1.47 million sweepstakes responders, and mailers offering travel, resort packages, and of course, sweepstakes, have had success with them, he says. “Michigan Bulb’s isn’t a heavy-duty sweepstakes with a multimillion-dollar prize, so it attracts fewer unqualified responders.”

But Schellong’s catalog customers typically mail to these prospects only when they’ve also made a purchase as well as entered the sweepstakes. (Nonresponders cost $55/M, compared with $75/M for catalog buyers.) “In addition to plant-related offers, fashion and health-related offers – especially those targeting a slightly older demographic – have worked well for catalogers mailing these names, but you still need a buying component to attract catalogers,” he says.