Case Study

How HolidayPirates Gained 320K Newsletter Subscribers in a Single Referral Contest

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How HolidayPirates Gained 320K Newsletter Subscribers in a Single Referral Contest


Referral contests are the industry favorite for a reason –
not only do they drive customer engagement, but they also expand your customer network.
The newcomers aren’t adventitious either. The ‘referral’ aspect of the practice
ensures new customers already have social proof attached to your brand.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look into a great example of a sweepstakes campaign done right that has generated over 325,000 emails in less than 4 weeks. The main actors – HolidayPirates and their crew of buccaneers, powered by Maître.

HolidayPirates’ referral contest campaign

HolidayPirates is one of the fastest growing online travel companies in Europe. How fast is their growth exactly, you might wonder? Quite impressive – Founded in 2011, today HolidayPirates has over 10 million likes on Facebook alone.

One of the ways HolidayPirates amassed this hefty following
is through sweepstake giveaways. This time, they chose the perfect prize – a $5,000
worth of booty that the luckiest pirate could use to travel anywhere their
heart desires!

HolidayPirates run a total of 9 simultaneous campaigns in
different regions – Italy, Germany, The United States, The United Kingdom,
Spain, Netherlands, Austria, France and Switzerland.

The raffle system was a perfect blend of a sweepstake and a
referral contest – for every friend that signed up for the HolidayPirates
newsletter, the customer would gain 10 additional entries. The more they referred,
the higher their chances were to win the attractive prize.

The viral sweepstake campaigns they recently run with Maître
resulted in an incredible average
referral rate of 21%
– gaining them exactly 325,234 subscribers.

Handling the campaign prep

Getting the campaign of these proportions ready is not an
easy task – there are just so many things to do. However, HolidayPirate handled
it well.

Implementing the highly customizable Maître tools, they
created a separate landing page the applicants would use to make an entry. The landing
page was both effective, and in the classic HolidayPirate character. The result
was a success.

We created our own landing page and implemented the widget provided by Maître. We tried to make it as prominent as possible and made sure to set the focus on the “sign in” and the “sharing” part. We also added a pop up
 widget (also provided via Maître) to make the “sharing” part more notable.


When a customer made an entry, they’d get an automation welcome
email. The email would let them know that their entry is in the draw to win and
explain the benefits of referring a friend. Under the explanation, they put
large social sharing buttons.

A follow up email reminded them of the benefits of sharing.

After a referral went through and their friend entered the
sweepstake, the customer would get an automation email again. This time, the
email would let them know their chances of winning were just boosted for 10
entries, and that they can repeat the process to heighten the odds of winning.
Finally, they’d set the date – telling the customer when the winner would be
announced – creating the sense of urgency.

The result – Maître’s Automation emails HolidayPirate used boosted customer engagement by 30%.

Nobody expects sweepstakes to work this well. Why? Because
in traditional sweepstakes, people don’t want others to enter. Remember –
sweepstakes usually have only one, or a few high-value prizes, so not a lot of
people can win. More entrees would mean more competition, and lower chances for
them to win. Nobody likes that!

So, what makes Maître Viral Sweepstakes different?

The more referrals a person got – higher the odds of them
winning! The people have a reason to
others to join in on the fun.

The process

Let’s take a look at how it works:

Mary has found a great deal for a vacation to Spain on last year, and she’d really like to go again, but the only
way for her to afford the trip this year is by winning the raffle.

At first, Mary might follow the good, old sweepstakes logic
– the more people in the raffle, the less likely her entry is to win.

But this logic doesn’t work here. It’s true that the more
entries there are, the lower the chance of Mary winning the raffle are.
However, in Maître’s viral sweepstake system, Mary has a way to gain a
significant boost – by getting 10 more entries with her name on into the

The way to achieve this is very simple and easily accessible
– all she has to do is click the button in one of the emails she received. So,
she decides to send a referral to a couple of people, including Robbie.

Once Robbie sees the invitation and figures out how it
works, he’s immediately swayed. Because he received the invitation from Mary,
he doesn’t shrug it off as spam. Taking a closer look, Robbie decides to enter.
After all, not only does he help his dear friend Mary, but he gets the chance
to win the attractive prize as well!

Perhaps he will share the raffle with Jane. And so on and so

The referrals gained this way are, of course, the heart and
soul of the referral contest. There are quite a few reasons HolidayPirate’s
campaign was this successful at getting their existing customers to share their
contest. The fact that their chances of winning were heightened manyfold was
only one of them.

While the incentive is important, the format HolidayPirate’s
email applied made it easy for them to
– they could do so with only a click of a button.

When making their Automated email with Maître, HolidayPirate could implement the social sharing buttons for Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Email in a simple and intuitive way.

We think the most important part was the prize itself and the campaign theme. Also, users were getting extra entries for every referred friend. Using Maître’s email templates (e.g. follow up email) and incorporating sharing icons pushed the referrals as well.


As the crew mentions, the campaign theme played an important
role in ensuring the sweepstake is attractive to customers. The copy
HolidayPirates used in their Maître powered automation emails is charming to
say in the least. Following their pirate theme tightly, they added a lot of
flavor into the emails with swashbuckler lingo and a friendly approach. 

Let’s take a look:

Remember, personalization is key in customer relations. The
people your email will reach are not mindless zombies programmed to follow
through any Call to Action they come across. They are individuals with
personality and a sense of humor, so no need to be too serious!

HolidayPirates nailed the voice of their copy. It’s both informative and amusing, with
catchphrases following the general theme.

It’s no wonder HolidayPirate’s campaign was a raging
success. The people got emails that were enjoyable and seemed tailored just for
them – in the lightning speed of automatic emails.

The reason their friends choose to sign up as well

Hint – it’s not only because
they too would be eligible to win (though that did play a part).

The fact that the invitation to sign up comes from someone
they know created social proof – a
psychological mechanism that many marketers swear by.

Robert Cialdini, an Arizona State University professor, and
a visiting professor of marketing, business and psychology at Stanford
University, lists social proof as one of the seven principles of persuasion.
Influence, he found, is among other things based on social proof and unity – the better we can identify with others, the
stronger their influence on us

So, not only did the friends of HolidayPirate’s existing
customers feel compelled to enter the draw in order to win the prize, they also
had an initial spark of trust and confidence in the previously unknown travel

This way, the customer doesn’t have to worry about being
scammed, and the companies don’t need to fret the spam filters. Referral
competitions are always a win-win situation, because the prospective customers
don’t need to question the validity of the offer, and the companies don’t have
to go out of their way to prove good business practice. Trust is virtually

Here’s the logic behind it:

Well, if John, one of the smartest people I know, trusts
this company, there’s got to be a good reason – no hornswoggle here! Persuasion through social proof at its

The prize is still very important

Still, no matter the size of your network or the loyalty of
your existing customers, winning is still the primary reason people enter
raffles and sweepstakes. In this case, the prize was a great choice – in fact,
time and time again, it proved to be the single best incentive for
HolidayPirates’ target audience.

The $5,000 in travel funds is exactly the type of prize a
person vying for a vacation would want. Holidays are, after all, the main
reason someone would be interested in this type of a business.

In their own words:

prize should definitely represent something attractive to your target group and
related to your brand. Also it should be an appealing incentive to motivate
your users to share via different channels and with friends without annoying
them. Another point is, that it makes sense to differentiate the prize from
time to time to keep the interest of the users…


Analytics are the key

Of course, even the best ideas need some tweaking to yield
the best results.

In order to reach the full potential of their campaigns,
HolidayPirates used the Maître advanced analytics to bring decisions based on

Maître has analytic tools which help you track different
types of data in real time. From information on specific participants, through
referral insights to stats and info on the promotion channels.

It’s easy to track it all: visits, actual conversions, and
referral, and finally gain insight into which promotional channels work best
for you and your target audience specifically. The analytics are presented in
both raw numbers and graphs, so it’s easy to make informed decisions.

After the conclusion of the campaigns, HolidayPirates
expressed their satisfaction with both the customizability of every aspect of
the campaign, and with Maître analytic tools:

We liked that the interface was really simple and easy to handle. You could customise most features according to your needs. Also the analytics page was quite nice. You had both day-to-day analytics and overall numbers (regarding participants, referrals and promo channels). You also could implement the Maître tracking parameters that helps compare the performance optimize on that. 
All in all, it was nice and easy to handle without spending much time to figure out how everything works. Most features were self-explaining.


Not only could they track the referrals and use automatic
weighing to make a fair winner draw, they could also make sure that they
quickly got rid of the entrees who wanted to game the system. After all,
upholding fair play is a priority. Maître’s anti-fraud algorithm tracks
activity and updates the assessment of risk levels of individual applicants in
real time. This means that HolidayPirates could get rid of bots and cheaters
quickly and effortlessly.


The most important takeaway is this: amazing results are not reserved for the big-shots.

With the referral rates ranging from 18 to 27%, and the final number of new subscribers reaching 325K, it’s obvious that HolidayPirates’ campaigns were a raging success.

Creating an outstanding referral contest has three main
ingredients – a strong incentive, powerful analytics and flawless execution.

While you should rely on your own knowledge and experience
to choose the prize that your target audience will love, Maître is there to
take care of the rest.

If you’re ready to create a result-yielding Sweepstakes
campaign in a matter of minutes, welcome aboard! And if you’d like to learn
more about how Maître works, you can book a meeting with us here.



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