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The Chances of Winning

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 11 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Prizes Skill-based Comps Prize Draws

Lady luck plays a very significant role in the outcome of most competitions but there also many other factors to consider when assessing ones chances of winning.

Taking All the Factors into Consideration

Assessing the odds of winning a prize in a competition these days can a very fraught undertaking. At no time before have there been so many different factors influencing the chances – size of promotion, availability of qualifier, time allotted, the competition’s difficulty. All of these and many more could play their own part.

Even if all the possible factors have been duly weighed up, competitions can often pull the rug out from under everyone by attracting either an unexpected deluge of entrants or a mere dribble.

The Off-Putting Realities

Most people would probably rather not know their chances of winning before entering a competition because the reality is often somewhat off-putting. In many other countries it is in fact law to display the odds of winning an instant win prize for all to see. It’s common to enter a prize draw or a prize crossword comp and think that maybe there aren’t many entrants this time, maybe this one has past most people by, maybe the odds of winning are really low.

To be told immediately that the odds of winning are in fact 1 in a 1,000,000 dampens the excitement a little. It is therefore no wonder that few promoters in the UK display such information voluntarily.

One of the few competitions where the odds of winning are so easy to work out they have become common knowledge is the national lottery. The jackpot cash mound offers odds of 1 in 13,983,816, for instance, whilst at the opposite end of the scale, the £10 booby prize has odds of a much more reasonable 1 in 56.7.

Uncovering the Harsh Truth

A bit of investigation into a promotion and its sales figures can be useful in establishing whether a competition is worth entering. For instance trade press, such as ‘Campaign’ and ‘The Grocer’ magazines and the trade sections of company websites often include information about a particular promotion such as its duration and sales turnover for a particular product. With a bit of calculation this data will provide some fairly accurate odds.

Unfortunately if worked out, these odds will often only succeed in softening that winning spirit. For example investigations into a recent Walkers promotion offering 16 million prizes and a therefore surely generous odds on winning, would uncover a stark reality. With 15 million bags of crisps sold a day over a promotional period of eight weeks, the odds on opening a bag with even the measliest prize of a complimentary bag of crisps would be less than 1 in 50. In fact the odds on getting a bag with a prize that wasn’t a free bag of crisps was 1 in 106,000.

Increasing the Chances of Winning

Although the Walkers example certainly succeeds in deflating the will to win, it does at least highlight why it is better to avoid the major promotions and assess ones own odds. Working out the odds based on the promoter’s sales talk is not a sensible idea – that ‘16 million prizes’ claim did turn out to be rather misleading after all.

Those compers unfazed by the intimidating odds of the instant win promotions will typically look out for competitions on the smaller more exclusive brands that appear at either the largest supermarkets or the smallest local shops. They will also attempt to spot the promotions with the shorter shelf life, such as those tied into a film release or a seasonal event.

Increasing the Odds by Increasing the Effort

Many compers frown upon instant win competitions of course, believing the often ridiculous odds not to be worth their valuable time. Skill-based competitions offer much better odds, they say, because the competition isn’t largely made up of millions of people wanting to win something for nothing. The entrants comprise of people with more modest prize ambitions and who enjoy a good challenge.

Slogan tiebreakers, as well as prize draws, are also more likely than instant wins to give out the prizes they advertise. The law states that such skill-based comps and prize draws must give out the prizes they offer, unlike instant wins, which must only make the prizes available to win. They know that only a small percentage of the prizes are ever claimed, and so can legally advertise that 25 motorbikes are up for grabs but then only have 5 people claiming their prizes.

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