Prom Contest Brings $3,000 to Small-Market Paper

4 minute read

by John Layton, The Westerly Sun

Case Study Highlights

  • $3,000 revenue for The Westerly Sun
  • 625 entries
  • 3,300 pageviews in two weeks
  • Contest and materials to be used for sister paper

The Idea

The Westerly Sun discovered a way to generate new digital revenue while engaging our local community. We ran a prom giveaway contest.

The inspiration for this contest was our team of high school interns and high school-aged children of employees. We realized that due to the downturn in our economy, local students and their families were struggling to purchase all the extras that go along with attending a high school prom. From transportation to tuxedos, flowers to photos, and dinner to dresses (not to mention hair, nails and makeup), preparing for a prom can get expensive.

Since The Westerly Sun is a community-oriented newspaper, we wanted to provide a fun contest that would ease the financial burden for families in our market and allow one couple from each of the three area high schools to attend the prom for free. At the same time, we hoped to generate revenue from new and infrequent advertisers and to boost our pageviews and social media interaction.

The Execution

When looking for contest and prize sponsors we targeted hair & nail salons, limousine services, insurance agencies, tuxedo rentals, jewelry stores, photographers and florists. In addition, we approached local substance abuse task forces, who eventually became sponsors and purchased prom-night transportation for our winners.

The Westerly Sun Prom Giveaway

The Prom Giveaway attracted many new businesses who had only infrequently advertised with us in the past. We ended up with a total of 17 advertisers for the contest, and were very pleased with the response. Many of our advertisers helped promote the contest in their businesses and on their Facebook pages. In addition, we had great support from each of our three participating local high schools, who placed posters throughout the high schools, made announcements to senior classes, and promoted the contest on Facebook.

All of our advertisers received an attractive mix of print advertising, online advertising, email messages, and social media exposure. You can see what was included in each of our tiered sponsor packages below. For even more ideas for how to promote your contests, take a look at this comprehensive checklist.

Premier Sponsorship Package

Level 2 Sponsorship Package

Level 3 Sponsorship Package

The grand prize package given to each of the three winning couples was valued at over $1,500 and included the following prizes from a wide variety of local and national businesses:

  • Limousine gift certificates for transportation on prom night
  • Hair & makeup before the prom
  • Men’s haircut & shave before the prom
  • Photo shoot at home before the prom
  • Tuxedo rental
  • Manicure
  • 2 spray tans
  • Flowers
  • Prom gown shawl
  • Bracelet & earrings
  • T-shirt & water bottle
  • $25 McDonald’s gift certificates

The Results

The Prom Giveaway contest generated $3,000 in new revenue for The Westerly Sun. This was a great news for our small-market paper. The contest received 625 total entries, and one winning couple was selected at random from each of the three local high schools.

Over the two-week entry time, we received over 3,300 pageviews, which was a great beginning to our online prom coverage. We post hundreds of photos from local junior and senior proms, so we often see record-breaking pageviews during prom season.

This was a very popular contest for us. As a result, we have been contacted by viewers in adjacent communities asking for us to expand the contest and include their high schools next year. We hope to use our contest and marketing materials as a template for our sister newspaper in another state next year, so they can easily introduce the Prom Giveaway to their market.

In the future, the only thing we would change about the way we ran our Prom Giveaway contest would be to promote our online prom coverage and photo galleries more and to send an email message to all of our contest entrants after the contest promoting our prom photo galleries and offering a discount on photo purchases.

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