Reese Witherspoon’s Clothing Company Receives Backlash for Changing Rules in Teacher Appreciation Dress Giveaway for Covid-19

In an attempt to express appreciation for teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Draper James decided to gift teachers with a dress from its collection. On April 2, 2020, Draper James announced the promotion on its Instagram account stating, “Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you.  During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress. To apply, complete the form at the link in bio before this Sunday, April 5th, 11:59 PM ET. (Offer valid while supplies last – winners will be notified on Tuesday, April 7th.)” The promotion went viral and many teachers tried to claim their free dresses. As it turns out, Draper James had only 250 dresses available to give to teachers as part of this promotion.

Once it realized the heightened demand for the free dresses, Draper James attempted to clarify the parameters of the promotion by notifying entrants that the giveaway was a sweepstakes, not a mass giveaway, and posting the actual giveaway number twice on its Instagram Stories. However, teachers had already submitted personal information under the guise that they would be receiving a free dress, so this clarification was too late and the public relations damage was already done.

Takeaway:  Social media promotions can be a great way to market a product and gain market recognition. However, with the chance that such promotions may go viral, marketers who are considering utilizing social media for promotional activities should work with experienced legal counsel prior to launching a similar contest or giveaway to ensure compliance and to troubleshoot potential issues that may arise.

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