Giveaways serve as effective tools for influencers and celebrities to boost their visibility, engage with fans and expand their follower base. But for those following the recent giveaway that sparked mayhem in the streets of New York City (NYC), it is evident that preparation prior to live-event prize promotions is critical.

So, how did an innocent giveaway intended to show appreciation to fans trigger a level 4 disaster response from the New York Police Department (NYPD)?

A popular live-streamer with a collective social media following of over 20 million took to social media to announce he will be giving away free PlayStation 5 consoles, gift cards and other items in NYC’s Union Square Park at 4 p.m. on Aug. 5. By 1 p.m., crowds had already started gathering at Union Square Park. The NYPD soon became aware of the giveaway, but by 3 p.m., more than 2,000 individuals had already gathered at Union Square Park. Despite the efforts of roughly 1000 police officers, chaos nonetheless erupted. The ensuing chaos saw people climbing atop vehicles and subway stations, obstructing traffic, setting off fireworks and even engaging in violent behavior. The situation escalated further, culminating in clashes between attendees – many of whom were teenagers – and the NYPD. By 5:30 p.m., the event ended with injuries to police officers and civilians and resulted in dozens of arrests. The streamer was ultimately arrested and charged with felony first-degree rioting, as well as a misdemeanor for inciting a riot and unlawful assembly.

This incident serves as a stark reminder that orchestrating live-event prize promotions requires a comprehensive assessment of potential risks and the implementation of responsible planning and coordination with relevant authorities. If done carelessly, a giveaway’s sponsor can be subject to civil and criminal liability.

To ensure a successful live-event prize promotion, sponsors should consider several factors:

Notices and permits

In preparation for a live-event prize promotion, sponsors should plan for crowd control and security personnel and establish clear communication with local law enforcement. Sponsors must provide adequate notification to pertinent parties, and in certain cases, obtain local approval to host the promotion. Requirements differ by state and municipality. For instance, NYC mandates a permit for gatherings of more than 20 people in a park – noncompliance with this regulation led to major issues for the streamer. Moreover, the Department of Transportation requires notification for events held on city streets or sidewalks, as such can lead to substantial sidewalk congestion or crowding. Gauging projected attendance and behavior is also important – will participants camp overnight in anticipation? In such instances, tent permits may be necessary. Other permits, such as those for filming or sound amplification, may also be necessary depending on the nature of the promotion.

By providing the necessary notices and applying for the appropriate permits, sponsors effectively communicate with law enforcement in preparation. In return, law enforcement will act and prepare to ensure the safety of all participants as well as the general community.


Alongside notification and permit procurement, sponsors might contemplate event liability insurance. As demonstrated by the recent event in NYC, the unpredictable conduct of participants can lead to injuries, property damage and potential lawsuits. The necessity and advisability of insurance ultimately hinge on the nature of the promotion.

Local considerations

Distinct requirements and considerations are imposed by states, counties and cities, varying between jurisdictions. It is imperative to consult with local ordinances to ensure utmost compliance with each jurisdiction’s requirements. For example, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., generally prohibits events within 500 feet of residential property, while Charlotte, N.C., strictly forbids overhead banners unless approved beforehand, with specific restrictions on their placement.

Lesson learned

Ultimately, sponsors and administrators of giveaways must ensure compliance with all relevant regulations and mandates. Careful adherence to necessary permits and notices, maintaining insurance coverage and adhering to local regulations will provide an avenue for sponsors to ensure the safety of participants and avoid legal complications.