Swarm isn't hugely popular. It's certainly no Snapchat, but the service averages nine million check-ins a day, according to Foursquare, Swarm's parent company. Swarm's user base is also loyal; those of us who still regularly tap the app are diehard.

Last June, Swarm started running regular "Challenges," as part of which users can win a variety of cool stuff. To enter, you need only check-in to certain types of venues a set number of times during a specified period.

I like cool stuff, especially free cool stuff. So I checked-in and checked-in, entered Challenge after Challenge, and crossed my fingers. Months went by. Alas, no luck for lowly ol' me … until last December, when I received a most-awesome Swarm notification. I'd won the Swarm Touchdown promotion for checking into sports-related venues. Sort of.

Check out Swarm for Windows phone

What it's like to win a Swarm Challenge

First, I received a notification in the app, which informed me that I was "a potential winner." I clicked it and filled out a form within the app that requested some very basic contact information. A few days later, I got an email from a Foursquare employee who kindly told me that I'd soon hear from another staffer, who would send me some sort of form that I had to fill out to claim my winnings.

It still wasn't clear, however, what I'd won.

The grand prize for the Touchdown Challenge was a trip to see the NFL football team of your choice, along with some gear and spending money. Being a New England sports fan, the thought of heading to pricey Gillette Stadium to see the Patriots for free sounded great. The runner-up prize wasn't too shabby, either: A $100 gift certificate toward a jersey of your choice.

Swarm contacted me the next day with an "affidavit of eligibility," which made me specify that I don't work for the company and neither do any of my family members. It also let me know in the fine print that I had not won the grand prize, only one of the $100 gift certificates. Bummer. Still, a free jersey is a free jersey, right? (The person who won the grand prize caught a Dolphins game in Miami in December.)

More than a month after submitting the form, I still hadn't received a prize. Never one to forgo free cool stuff, I followed up, and the company told me my prize would be in the mail shortly. Three weeks later, a tiny, hand-addressed envelope that looked like an invitation to a child's birthday party arrived at my door. It contained a winner's card from Swarm and a $100 voucher for Fanatics.com, an online sports apparel retailer.

Takeaways from a Swarm Challenge winner

First of all, I'm a big fan of winning Swarm Challenges. You should try it some time.

I'm a New England Patriots fan, but I'm not a National Football League (NFL) fan — it's a questionable organization run by at least a few unethical people. When you purchase an officially-licensed NFL jersey, the league takes a chunk of your cash. I don't want to support the NFL, so I used my gift certificate to purchase a new Boston Celtics jersey instead.

It feels dirty to criticize Swarm and Foursquare when they just gave me $100, but some clearer communication would have been helpful. It took the company nearly two months to mail my winnings, and had I wanted to buy a spiffy new Tom Brady jersey to wear during last weekend's glorious Super Bowl win (sorry Haters), I wouldn't have had time to order one and receive it before the big game. That kind of defeats the purpose of an NFL-football-related contest.

Still: Thanks Swarm!

If you're not familiar with the app, check out Foursquare Swarm for Windows phone. It's also available for Android and iOS.