What is the message of the film "Nebraska" for sweepstakes creators?

by Thompson Coburn LLP

“Does your dad have Alzheimer’s or something?”

“No, he just believes what he is told is true”

“That’s too bad.”

That paraphrased dialogue from the movie Nebraska takes place between the son of an elderly man (who believes he has won $1 million in a sweepstakes) and an employee at the promotions company that created the sweepstakes. The father, played by Bruce Dern, received a letter telling him that he would receive the $1 million prize. The letter included a picture of a check made out in his name $1 million dollars.

Dern’s character is so convinced he has won that the movie opens with Dern walking down the side of a frozen Montana highway, determined to trek to Nebraska to collect his million-dollar prize. The story moves on with his son, played by Will Forte, joining Dern on the trip from Bismark, North Dakota, to Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Film Critic Department of the Sweepstakes Law Blog gives this movie 5 “Sweeps” out of 5 and strongly recommends that anyone involved in designing, creating, or sponsoring sweepstakes see this movie. Whether you are involved in sweepstakes or not, it is an enjoyable movie, as recognized by the nominations it, its director and stars have received for Golden Globe and Academy Awards.

The story is at times hilarious, but more often quite serious as the 84-year-old man, who may be losing some of his mental capacity, is convinced that he has won a sweepstakes because of a letter he received from the sweepstakes’ sponsor. The story is fictional, but the fact that most people have at some time received a vague or misleading letter that they “may have already won!” a sweepstakes makes the movie all the more believable.

I suspect the those who prepare such letters realize that most recipients throw it them the trash; few take the time to read the hard-to-find fine print that informs that they haven’t actually won anything until their name, code number, or other entry information has been selected. However, there is a significant percentage of people who, because of their age, health, mental condition, or education, may have difficulty understanding the actual details of such sweepstakes.

I am certain that no one reading this blog intentionally creates sweepstakes designed to confuse or mislead potential entrants into entering the sweepstake (and making some type of purchase to do so). And I believe Nebraska does a good job of exposing those people for their shameful deeds. But I also believe that the movie has a message for all of us who are involved in legitimate sweepstakes and contests. We have a responsibility to make certain that the details of our promotions are described and promoted in “clear and conspicuous manner” (to use an FTC term) and to make certain that all of the terms and conditions contained in our the rules are understandable to all who may want to participate.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Thompson Coburn LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Thompson Coburn LLP

Thompson Coburn LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.