According to the Nielson Company rating research, NFL games reached more than 200 million unique viewers in 2011 and drew 17.5 million viewers per game, making it the most-watched sport on television. [Source]
This means two things. First, more and more people are tuning in on Thursday, Sunday and Monday Nights to catch all the gridiron action that they can handle. Second, fewer and fewer people are actually attending the game themselves. Game attendance has dropped from 17.3 million people in 2007 to 16.5 million in 2011.[Source]
And this goes for other sports as well. Rather than brave the crowds, outrageous concession prices and parking, people are flocking in droves to their couches, local sports bars and favorite restaurants. For bar and restaurant owners, this is an opportunity not to be overlooked. You need a sports-related marketing strategy which appeals to die-hard fans of local teams and—thanks to an increasingly mobilized world—transplant fans, as well.
Get Yourself Out There
With sports now a serious business both in terms of money and fandom, the avenues for advertising in associated markets have increased.
Here is how you can make that work for your food service business:
- Partner up. Sports talk radio stations are thriving and always looking for sponsorship. Offer your establishment as a venue for remote broadcasts. This attracts new listeners for them and new customers for you.
- Get together. Seek out sponsorship deals with your food and beverage distributors. These partnerships increase your buying power and profitability while increasing exposure for the promoted product.
- Update your status. Facebook is a terrific way to attract the attention of local sports fans and even those wayward transplants looking to catch their former home teams on satellite television. Popular teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Lakers draw devoted masses to bars and restaurants in every major city across the country.
Give it the Old College Try
Sports fandom doesn’t just stop with the pros. College sports have some of the most ardent fan bases out there. If your restaurant or bar is in close proximity to a college campus, cater to those fans by branding yourself as the designated hang-out for alumni. Another great approach is to appeal to alumni whose alma mater isn’t so nearby. You would be surprised which fans and potential customers will come out of the woodwork when you fly a friendly flag.
There are a variety of websites like Meetup in search of bars that want to represent throngs of sports fans from all over the country. By getting yourself on those websites and by boosting word-of-mouth recommendations, you will most certainly have consistent and loyal regulars before the season is over.
Speak to Their Stomachs and Their Wallets
Offer interactive food and drink specials. Try corresponding crazy plays in-game or point totals with enticing offers like free drinks or half-price wings and appetizers and make these specials known before the games begin. Also be sure to offer specials or buzzwords that will make you stand out from your competitors with ideas like:
- Brunch and bloody mary specials at game time
- Specialty food items that only you can offer
- Beer and food combination specials
- Bottomless mimosas at a set lump price
- High-Definition televisions and specialty cable packages
For smaller restaurants with limited dine-in or a carryout only model, try offering free side items or desserts to fans wearing jerseys of the home team or free delivery on game day.
Another great opportunity to reach out to sports fans is by tapping into the Fantasy Football market. If you have the space and Wi-Fi access, consider hosting fantasy drafts and season-long fantasy and game-picking promotions.
Even smaller restaurants, take-out operations and delivery-centric restaurants can get in on the action by offering specials to those who stay at home and draft. Try meal deals complete with side dishes and soft drinks. Discover more football promo ideas for your restaurant or bar.
Watch the Calendar
While football draws the most concentrated crowds, other sports attract lots of attention, too. March Madness in the spring, baseball during the summer, basketball and hockey in the wintertime, even global events like World Cup soccer brings fans together. Keep up with the events and come up with specials and offers that you can correspond with these games. Have drawings for promotional items, free tickets or team-related paraphernalia.
Sports hold a very dear place in the heart of many customers. By joining in on the fun you not only increase their enjoyment and send them home happy, but you can also watch your business flourish as turnout increases. So quit being a spectator and get yourself into the game!
Illustrations by the talented Roman Martinez for FSW