Success Story

Monthly Contest Engages Audience, Saves Sponsorship, & Drives $24K

The Pilot creates alternative photo contest campaign that leads to an even bigger win for their sponsor.

By: Samantha Cunningham, The Pilot

The Idea:

Our paper, The Pilot, is a 10,000 circ, 2 days a week newspaper out of Southern Pines, NC. Going into 2020, we were running a successful Student Athlete of the Month promotion with a fast-food franchise. But COVID-19 quickly put high school sports in flux. To retain our sponsorship, we needed to pivot to come up with an alternative.  

The Execution:

Cutest kids contests are always a win, so we switched the Athlete of the Month to a monthly family-themed photo contest. Every month we choose a different family theme like Back to School in August, Grandparents in September, and Pick of the Patch in October. 

While we’d been thrilled with the results of our original high school sports contest, our new themed photo contests tapped into an even larger audience. Now we’re targeting moms with babies, grandparents, pet owners – everybody wants to get involved! 

blog photo

For many food-related businesses, getting them to provide a sponsorship investment is tough. We really had to work to grow the relationship. This meant frequently dining in the restaurant and getting to know the owner and the staff and what a successful campaign would look like to them.  

In this case, this business’ top goal was community involvement. A recurring revenue photo contest campaign would be the perfect fit to drive engagement all year long. Not only would the unique themes sustain month-after-month excitement, but it gave the client an opportunity to help choose the themes.  

We optimized the entrant and voter registration form to collect valuable user data. We included email opt-ins for three of our newsletter lists. Plus, we also included an optional Facebook Like Box for our sponsor.   

grandparents day


We created a robust sponsorship package with a monthly investment of $1,565. The contest sponsorship included advertising in the print paper and on their website.   

presenting sponsor

To help track the campaign’s success, each participant received a thank-you email encouraging them to download the fast-food chain’s mobile app (another important campaign goal!) to get a coupon for a free sandwich. We also provide in-store collateral for them such as posters and table tents with QR codes directing to the contest.  

The Results:

We secured $24,000 for this annual campaign. $18,000 of this from our title sponsor and then an additional $6,000 from supporting sponsors. On top of that, our title sponsor is even more happy with the engagement results of this new campaign since we’re reaching an even wider audience than with their Student Athlete contest. 

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