Sweepstakes and instant-win games are fun, effective ways for adult beverage brands to connect with consumers — but they are legally nuanced. To ensure the promotion is approved and compliant in states that permit adult beverage promotions, brands must be prepared to navigate several additional regulations that don’t apply to other industries.

Here are the top legal considerations to keep in mind when running a game of chance or purchase-based promotion for adult beverage brands. We recommend adding time to your planning phase of your program, due to the regulated nature of the industry. If planned and executed properly, digital promotions can have a meaningful impact on tying drinks to an event and driving engagement and awareness that increase purchase consideration.

1. Submit for Prior State Approvals and Registration Before Launch

Every state has its own regulatory body overseeing the production, sale and distribution of alcohol, and many of those control boards require written registration of a planned promotion before launch. This is a critical step to ensure that the sponsor is legally permitted to run the promotion as planned and to advertise it to consumers in the applicable states.

RTM has expertise in running adult beverage programs and managing the submission process on behalf of the sponsor. Where applicable, we factor in regulatory approval lead times to ensure programs are approved and can launch on time.

Note: In the rare case where a state board specifically disapproves of the promotion, the official rules will be amended to void eligibility of residents of that specific state to participate.

2. Enforce Age Restrictions for Entrants

As all entrants and winners must be over 21, Realtime Media can provide brands with several forms of age-gating to ensure that only eligible participants interact with brand content and are able to register for a chance to win. If you will utilize a microsite to collect entries, the first step is to gate the promotion’s landing page with a pop-up requiring visitors to enter their birth date. With any alcohol beverage program, entrants must first pass through an age gate before accessing the promotion.

On all age-gated entry microsites Realtime Media develops, a second safeguard appears on the user registration page, where RTM's technology flags any entrants whose age input at the age gate does not match the age/birthdate input at registration. If the dates don’t match, our technology will automatically remove them from the pool of potential winners.

This two-step process helps to ensure that brands are collecting valid and useful first-party data through the promotion and engaging only with eligible consumers.

3. Verify Winners

Even though alcohol itself cannot be given as a prize, winners of any prize offered by an alcohol brand must be 21 or older. Once a winner has been selected, their age needs to be legally verified through a sworn declaration as well as a photo upload of a valid ID, such as a driver’s license. At Realtime Media, we then use a verification tool to cross-check the ID against state and federal databases to confirm its authenticity and ultimately, confirm the winner’s eligibility.

This is also available for promotions without a microsite (i.e. social promotions). Winners can be directed to a prize redemption form where, with the help of RTM’s Winner Management, age verification is a seamless process.

While adult beverage brands may require a few extra weeks to develop a legally compliant promotion, sweepstakes and instant-win games have also proven to be widely successful at activating fan bases, tying a drink into a special event, holiday or sports season and building overall brand awareness and market share. By partnering with an experienced sweepstakes legal administration team, brands can focus on their strategic marketing goals with the confidence that every legal nuance will be carefully addressed.