All Your Awkward “Best of Las Vegas” Awards Questions Answered

The annual ritual known as the “Best of Las Vegas” awards are under way once again.

This crowd-sourced contest/survey is hosted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and has long been the subject of heated debate and a fair amount of derision.

We figured it was time to dive into what these awards are all about. Is it a pay-for-play scam? Is it rigged? Can awards be “bought”? Does anyone really care about who wins what?

You have questions, we have inside baseball and hackneyed sports metaphors.

Who are we to write this story? No, we’ve never worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. We were, however, a digital marketer in our former life, and were tasked with winning awards for our employer who operated a major Las Vegas attraction.

During our tenure, we won “Best of Las Vegas” awards for our attraction, in all three categories for which it was eligible, every year we participated. Since our departure, the attraction has fared less well in these awards. It’s not really about the attraction itself, though, but more about how the awards work and how one wins or doesn’t. You’ll see.

Let’s go!

First, the “Best of Las Vegas” awards aren’t to be confused with Las Vegas Weekly’s “Best of Vegas” awards. The Weekly’s awards are a mix of public voting and editors’ choice awards. With the Review-Journal, it’s all based upon public voting.

The basics of the awards are this: There’s a nomination period, then a voting period, then the votes are tallied and winners are announced with the requisite hoopla. Here’s the schedule for this year.

Winners get gold, silver or bronze. Just like the Olympics, but without all the leotards. Which we’re not entirely sure is a word we can even use anymore.

To state what could or should be obvious: The “Best of Las Vegas” awards are a revenue-generation vehicle for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. That’s why the awards exist, despite the fact they don’t come right out and say it.

Here’s the official take on why the awards exist: “The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Inc. is once again presenting the Best of Las Vegas in 2022 to engage the community in celebrating the places, restaurants and local businesses we love.” This is what is commonly referred to in the business as “horseshit.”

These might be benefits of the awards, but they aren’t the reason they exist.

A side benefit is the contest creates content, but it’s really about generating revenue.

Finally, for the awkward parts.

Can a person or company “buy” a win in the “Best of Las Vegas” awards?

The answer is technically “no.”

You can’t outright buy a win.

That said, there are myriad ways to influence the outcome of the contest through the use of money.

Let’s just say there’s a reason the “Best of Las Vegas” awards are known as the “Naqvi Awards.” This local lawyer has won gold 11 times, and is now an “official sponsor” of the awards themselves. Sounds legit! (Naqvi is now the official sponsor of the awards, and it appears he’s graciously taken himself out of the running so somebody else can have a shot at winning.)

The “Best of Las Vegas” awards generously offer those vying for awards myriad ways to improve their chances of winning.

Before you’re up for an award, though, you have to be nominated. From our experience, any business can nominate itself and they’re a nominee. The more the merrier when it comes to potential sources of revenue. For example, the “Personal Injury Lawyer” category has about 100 nominees for 2022. The Review-Journal could just list the folks who get the most nominations, but why leaving potential advertisers out of the running?

Here are more rules if you’re into that kind of thing. There is no cost to businesses to be included in the contest.

The whole nomination process is a little mysterious. The Review-Journal is intentionally vague about who gets nominated, or how.

When we were trying to win awards for our company, we forgot to nominate ourself in one of the categories. We reached out to the Review-Journal and expressed our disappointment, and said we were planning to spend a good deal of money on our award effort. We were added as a nominee. After the nominations had been finalized. Just saying.

Once nominated, the race is on. The goal is to get as many people as possible to vote for your business, as often as possible. You can vote once every 24 hours during the voting period.

The “Best of Las Vegas” awards are the ultimate exercise in advertising and digital marketing.

Some companies devote tons of resources to winning. Possibly the best example, ever, was when the Stratosphere (now, The Strat) won 30 awards in one year. We love The Strat, but winning so many awards in a year was a clear indication there were forces at work which went beyond Tweeting “Vote for us!” a few times.

Strat won because it made winning these awards the highest priority, and that included investing a lot in all the opportunities provided by the awards.

What opportunities?

The “Best of Las Vegas” awards site has lots of recommendations for nominees, many of which involve “giving money to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has lots of great ideas to help nominees win. Such selflessness!

There are too many “Promotion” ideas to talk about thoroughly, but some of our favorites are the “Custom Voting Page” ($895). This is a page where, if your company gets more than one nomination, your fans can vote for all your categories in one place.

One of the best things about the “Custom Voting Page” is people are only seeing your company, not whoever else is up for the award in your categories.

The more nominations, the more the page costs. If you’re nominated in 35 categories, the “Custom Voting Page” costs $2,550. Here’s more.

Here’s an example of a Custom Voting Page. It’s for Ellis Island, and the only reason we’re sharing it is because they deserve most of the awards they’re going for, although it’s a bit of a stretch to say the Front Yard is “Outdoor Dining.” Whatever, we love Ellis Island, and they definitely are a case study in how to make the most of their existing fan base to snag awards. They’ve done very well in the past.

All your votes, all in one place.

There’s a slew of other advertising opportunities, of course. Many of the opportunities involve greater visibility on the “Best of Las Vegas” awards Web site.

You can buy a “Main Category Sponsorship” ($3,500) or a “Subcategory Sponsorship” ($599), or you can invest in making your ballot button more visible with a graphic ($139) or even video ($189). Details here.

Imagine an election where candidates could pay to have a big red arrow next to their name, while their competition did not. Hey, everyone has the same opportunity to invest in these “opportunities,” right?

Entities with the most resources, then, are more likely to be most visible to voters.

Beyond these paid opportunities to gain an advantage, the awards also tend to go to companies who have large, engaged social media audiences. The voting is done online, so it’s all about reach and engagement. That doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s no real shortcut to being able to harness the power of one’s social media audience.

“This isn’t just about ad dollars! We’re engaging the community! The community is passionate about its air duct cleaning!”

Another huge factor in winning these awards is being able to mobilize employees of your company (or show or restaurant or whatever) to vote. Some Las Vegas companies send daily reminders to their employees to vote, along with the suggestion they get friends and family involved.

Even if there aren’t a ton of employees, that persistence can pay off.

At some point, all this hard work and financial investment come to fruition with the announcement of the winners.

The awards are announced in a “special advertising feature” called the “Best of Las Vegas Winners’ Magazine.” It’s only a little awkward that winners know they’ve won before the official announcement, otherwise how would they be able to pay for advertising in the publication announcing the winners? Note: Time travel isn’t a thing yet.

A full page ad in this “magazine,” where you get to brag about your win, runs $5,130. Oh, and the RJ takes care to say, “Advertising is not contingent upon being a winner.” Come on, losers, you can buy ads, too!

There are about 350 categories in the “Best of Las Vegas” awards. Chair not included.

Once you win, there’s another “opportunity” you’ll want to jump on. Specifically, you can pay to use the “Best of Las Vegas” awards logo in your advertising for a couple grand. (At one time, if you met the advertising spend threshold, around $2,500, the logo was included without an additional charge. We’re pretty sure it’s a separate fee now.)

Yes, rights to use of the “Best of Las Vegas” winner logo expire, despite the fact some Las Vegas shows and entertainers have been using the logo in advertising since the 1940s.

It’s great winning awards!

We hope this answered any questions you might have about the “Best of Las Vegas” awards, and we also hope if you’re nominated (or nominate yourself), some of these resources will help give you a better shot at winning.

Before you empty your bank account trying to win using the advertising opportunities mentioned, it’s worth taking a moment to ask a legitimate question: “Who cares who wins these awards?”

We have never seen any evidence anyone uses these awards to make decisions about what restaurant to visit or what show to see. They hit Yelp and blogs and other social media platforms for that.

In the case of the “Best of Las Vegas” awards, the results can be wonky, which undermines the credibility of the awards. A lot.

Can the “Best of Las Vegas” awards system be “cheated”? Doubtful.

In the early days of the awards, there were rumors of nominees using “click farms,” where they’d pay for a service (usually in some exotic foreign land) to vote all day every day. We’ve heard there are safeguards to prevent such “ballot box stuffing” now.

The “Best of Las Vegas” awards are a time-honored, if silly, tradition in Las Vegas.

Voting is now open for this year’s awards, so check out the official site if you haven’t already, and make sure to vote. Your vote counts because you are reasonably intelligent (you’re reading a blog rather than looking at boobs on TikTok all day) and objective.

Winners will be announced Sunday, December 11, in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The award results always spark lively conversation, and we can’t wait to see who wins what despite the fact the Las Vegas Review-Journal stubbornly refuses to include categories for “Best Las Vegas Blog,” “Best Las Vegas Twitter Account” (or any other social media for that matter) or “Best Looking Blogger Assuming You’re a Good Distance Away.”

Yet, there are dozens of categories for attorneys and dentists and auto detailers and people who do windshield repair. Given everything you’ve just learned, even you can connect the dots about why.

It’s Vegas. Always follow the money.