9 things you are getting wrong in marketing football

You aren’t actively seeking relationships with alumni/fan clubs

There are 252 Division I football teams and 32 NFL teams. It doesn’t matter where you live, there is an alumni or college fan club waiting for you to offer them sanctuary in your building. These folks are loyal and come in groups. Yes, you will have to discount for them a bit, but they will also come back when they aren’t with their group and the alumni clubs operate through basketball season. They are college educated and typically spend money happily if they feel accommodated.

Building programs to attract these guests does take some effort, but the rewards are significant. A typical alumni club will communicate their schedule to you for the season and, if you are their preferred viewing venue, that is additional exposure at no extra cost. New guests are the most expensive to attract and alumni/fan groups do all the heavy lifting.

You aren’t getting ready now for football

Arguably, the busiest time of your year is football season. It stands to reason that getting ready with programs, promotions and planning well in advance will improve your performance, grow your business and make the process a little bit easier. 

Planning for issues like staffing, storage, promotion fulfillment all insure fewer surprises and better execution. Use September as a milestone and start your planning in June. You will get better support from your vendors if you ask earlier, will have a fully trained staff, and your restaurant will be organized around delivering the best guest experience possible. How can that hurt?

You don’t make game day a special event

Sunday football is a de facto weekly holiday. Your guests gear up for it all week. Why not make your place feel like it’s a special party just to celebrate it with them? If you have a DJ, have them host the day. Do giveaways during the quarter breaks or run a contest that engages guests throughout the game. Every Super Bowl you offer squares, so do it weekly. It doesn’t have to be a cash game; just have four quarterly prices and let people pick their squares for free.

Do specials as well. You can co-opt the tail gate theme, do brunch on the West Coast or just have a special game day menu. The key is to send a clear message to guests that Sunday is different and football is why. With fantasy leagues so ubiquitous, your guests stay interested in the NFL to the end of the season, and giving them a party to attend at your place is good for everyone.

You aren’t leveraging football to build your email/social media connections

Is your volume higher during football? Duh, right? Then why aren’t you aggressively asking for email addresses and follows on social media? This is the time to make those connections with your guests. It’s also the best time to connect with new guests that are attracted to your location because of football.

You aren’t communicating with your guests about what you are featuring in advance

If we are being direct, sports is the main reason guests choose your place. I know, I know… you have great food, a great beer selection and your team is top notch. All great things, but the truth is they are there to watch sports on TV. That is why you should be communicating constantly about the best viewing options available. By communicating exactly what you are featuring for live sports you are meeting the guest where they want to be engaged.

Additionally, you are confirming that your place is home to whatever they want to show. There is a reason that Buffalo Wild Wings crows, “If you want to watch it, we’ll put it on.” The more you assure your guests that you are the place to watch sports, the more they will choose to watch them at your place.

You don’t promote your other programs during football

It’s more than a cliché to say selling to an existing customer is far easier than securing a new one. The traffic increases from football present a unique opportunity to facilitate the success of marketing your other programs. Whether you want to implement a new loyalty program or set the stage for basketball and hockey, you have this audience in your building. Don’t waste the opportunity to deliver your message.

Whether you use POP, task your servers/bartenders to promote a program or use digital signage, strike while the iron is hot. These guests have already demonstrated that they like your place, now give them incentive to return all year long.

You haven’t tried to drive carryout during game day

Is your food great? Then why not make it simple to order and enjoy it for carryout. If we have to review the value of carryout food, then this may not be for you. However, those of you that get the economies of scale that carryout leverages will no doubt already be planning a special Take-away Tailgate menu for guests to order on game day.

You don’t take fantasy football seriously

More than 75 million people participated in Fantasy sports in 2015. Those numbers continue to grow with the introduction of daily fantasy. With multiple TVs and the ability to show all the games, your place should be a fantasy HQ for your guests. Giving them a comfortable place isn’t enough. Include fantasy related content in your emails, show fantasy related programming on your TVs and post fantasy insights on your social media. These actions will demonstrate to your guests that your place is fantasy sports friendly and encourage them to choose you as their favored viewing spot.

You believe football doesn’t need to be marketed

I’ve heard this from operators over the years and I am amazed at this myopic thinking. 

Yes, football is its own reward. Turn on the TVs and people come in to watch the games. When the NFL Sunday Ticket premiered in the ‘90s, only precious few bars had it available. Now that point of differentiation has become an assumed service. Attracting guests to your place for football is a competitive affair and requires maximum effort. Just waiting for them to appear is a recipe for failure and certainly won’t benefit your business in the long term. So, buckle down and invite people to see what you already know — you have a great place to watch the games and you welcome fans to join you there.

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