Possible PR Fail: Gold Peak Tea Disqualifies Contest Winner

The Coca-Cola-owned Gold Peak Tea Company had a pretty cool idea for a contest: the “Take the Year Off”competition offered its lucky winner a $100,000 prize and a chance to quit work for twelve months (not quite sure how that provision would work, but OK).

To enter the contest, tea fans simply had to answer a couple of questions, write a brief essay about what they would do with the money and, if they were determined to be one of the top 10 or 15 contestants, submit a short video elaborating on the theme “The Comforts of Home.” Facebook users would then vote to determine the winner.

Earlier this week, Georgia-based attorney Theodore Scott was declared the contest’s winner–until he wasn’t.

Two days after naming him champion, the folks behind the contest disqualified him. Why? Because he posted a note in the About.com Sweepstakes Forum encouraging readers to vote for his video. Now Scott, who just happens to belong to a family of lawyers, is trying to decide whether or not to sue Coca-Cola for depriving him of his rightful prize.

Let’s review:

The contest’s rules clearly prohibit “vote farming”, and the very purpose of the Ask.com forum is to help other forum members win various contests by voting for each other. Scott claims that he “was treated unjustly”, fellow lawyers don’t seem to think he broke any rules, and supporters note that “every single contestant asked their family and friends to vote for them.”

Yeah, but we can’t see this growing into a real PR problem for Gold Peak. Isn’t a sweepstakes forum the very definition of “vote farming?”

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.