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How to Capitalize on Sports Bar Marketing

How to Capitalize on Sports Bar Marketing

Last updated on 1/18/2023

There are a lot of tips out there that can help you run a successful bar, but sports bars present their own unique set of challenges and opportunities. By targeting the sports community, you can create a fun environment and a set of regular customers. But, how can you combat lulls between major sporting events and keep the interest and excitement piqued year-round? Can you appeal to a casual crowd without alienating sports fans? Read on for a few sports bar marketing ideas that apply to new and established operations alike.

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What Is a Sports Bar?

A sports bar is a bar that caters to sports fans by continuously showing televised sporting events. Sports bars are typically themed with sports memorabilia to enhance the atmosphere. For many, sports bars are their preferred way to watch major sporting events because it allows them to have a sense of community while watching the game. For this reason, big-ticket sporting events are extremely lucrative for sports bars.

Sports Bar Marketing

One of the most important elements of sports bar marketing is advertising. You may have great bar food and a lively atmosphere, but advertising through social media and other more traditional methods can help fill your seats, even during your local team’s off-season.

Social Media Marketing

Man celebrating team winning on phone

Using social media as a sports bar marketing tool provides you with instantaneous connections with your customers. Establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to make your business more accessible to followers. These sites can give you a strong and free way to spread the word about special deals and events to your target audience.

But if promotions are all you have to offer on social media, they can easily become white noise, so be sure to actively communicate with your followers to establish a more meaningful and profitable rapport. Consider the following social media features to get your sports bar’s name known:

  • Use Facebook Events to spread the word on upcoming events and gauge interest.
  • Go live to notify customers of what they are missing out on at your location.
  • Share Instagram Stories and Facebook Reels with some behind-the-scenes videos of your location and staff.
  • Purchase a Snapchat Filter that customers can play with while in your sports bar and share with friends.
  • Join a beer-based community like BeerAdvocate, TapHunter, or Untappd to indicate to customers what new beers you’ll be featuring at your establishment.

Mobile Options

In addition to your social media marketing, consider creating a website where customers can access information about your sports bar and the promotions you’re currently running. The National Restaurant Association discovered in a 2017 study that 90% of smartphone users first search for restaurant information online when choosing a dining establishment. A website, Google listing, or Yelp page will make your location more prevalent during their search.

You can also try creating a loyalty app or mobile club using SMS marketing where customers can opt-in to have coupons and other special offers sent directly to their phones. There are a lot of things to consider when going this route, so be sure to research how to set up an SMS campaign system before you get started.

Traditional Sports Bar Marketing

In an age of technology, you may find that there is a lot of competition in an online setting. Here are some traditional sports marketing methods that can help you advertise directly to your local community:

Advertise at a Local Game

Marketing your sports bar at a local sporting event is a fantastic way to reach your target audience. Here are some advertising ideas you can use to advertise your bar at local games:

  • Get your advertisement in the program.
  • Buy banner space in the stadium.
  • Ask to cater food during the game.

On-Air Advertisements

On-air advertisements during games are a great way to cast a wide net and get your sports bar's name out there. Below are some of the most common ways to advertise your sports bar on-air.

  • Run a short radio commercial around game days.
  • Submit a television commercial to run a few days before a big game.
  • See if a television station would be willing to cast a pre- or post-game segment at your establishment.

Run Promotions

Running promotions and special deals is a fantastic way to reach sports enthusiasts and non-fans alike. Here are some of the most common promotions run by sports bars:

  • Provide limited-time offers like new appetizers or drinks.
  • Have a raffle giveaway.
  • Incentivize large parties with group rates or discounts on larger dishes.
  • Offer a freebie after team victories.
  • Provide play-by-play discounts according to the action during a big game.

Sponsor a Team

Youth soccer team celebrating together

Sponsoring a local team or charity can be a highly effective advertising choice in traditional sports bar marketing. This allows your bar to create connections with the local community while getting exposure for your brand name. Supporting your community establishes your company as a valuable asset to the neighborhood while providing a place where locals can come to dine and relax.

When you sponsor an amateur league team, your advertisement may be placed on banners in the stadium, in the program during games, and sometimes even on their jerseys. Your sports bar also becomes a location where the team can bring their friends and family to celebrate victories or unwind after losses.

Sports Bar Designs

Once you have decided what you will be broadcasting in your sports bar, you’ll need to make sure that the sports atmosphere is established to accompany the games and matches. The atmosphere depends not only on your decor but on your staff as well.

Sports Bar Themes

Customers celebrating at a Sports Bar

Help your customers become fully immersed in the wide world of sports with some careful interior decorating. Pennants, pictures, jerseys, sports movie posters, balls, and other memorabilia should be craftily sprawled across the walls of your sports bar, with extra points for anything that's autographed. Here are some more ways to embrace the fandom in your establishment:

  • Name a meal or beverage after teams or players.
  • Print stat charts for your customers during big games.
  • Set up a photo booth station with creative backgrounds and props for customers to take pictures.

Sports Bar Uniforms

Your location may be decorated in the right way, but your staff can truly make the sports atmosphere come alive with their attire and their conversations. You may choose to have your wait staff all in referee uniforms to embrace the sporting theme while keeping it general. Another option would be to design a custom jersey for your sports bar featuring each staff member's name on the back. On special occasions, you might encourage them to wear their favorite team's jersey. And remember— sporting events are a social experience so, while not everyone needs to be a die-hard fan, hiring those who have a basic level of sports knowledge can turn some of your more passionate customers into regulars.

What to Broadcast at a Sports Bar

You may already be equipped with a great menu, great service, and great pricing, but what you televise at your sports bar can make or break your business. Perhaps the most important thing to consider when it comes to sports bars is excellent programming. Broadcasting the local teams' games is an absolute must, but you’ll also want to create a broadcasting schedule to cover your establishment year-round.

Local Sporting Events

To create regular customers, be sure to take full advantage of a fan base that is already established in your area during game season. If your sports bar is located in a town or city with a champion team, be sure to make your loyalty known by broadcasting their every game and getting into the excitement. Fans will then be able to use your establishment as a place to celebrate team victories or mourn team losses together. Even if the local team is off their game, maintaining a commitment to that team throughout the season can earn you some goodwill with its most ardent supporters. You can also draw local fans into your location by:

  • Hosting a tailgate party for pre-game hype.
  • Throwing big parties for significant games.
  • Celebrating the opening of a sports season.
  • Providing an after-party location for team victories.

Pay-Per-View Broadcasts

Woman with a beer watching sports on a bar television

Broadcasting games from your local teams is important, but they will not provide you with year-round coverage. So, what should you broadcast when many of the major sports enjoy their off-season? Consider showcasing classic sports broadcasts from years past that have local, national, or worldwide significance.

It's also important to expand your scope beyond regional sports coverage, especially when it comes to big games and events with broad appeal. You can take things to the next level by offering premium content that customers otherwise wouldn't have access to without paying subscription fees. This could mean showing pay-per-view events like boxing matches or providing access to every pro football game (which are regionally restricted). The key is to draw patrons in with something they couldn't just tune into at home on basic cable.

Not sure what to show? Poll your customers on sporting events they would be interested in viewing that go beyond what regional cable can offer. Once you establish what you will be broadcasting, prepare a schedule that customers can access so they don’t miss their favorite events.

What to Offer at a Sports Bar for Non-Sports Fans

It's understandable that your target customers for your sports bar will be sports fans; however, to maintain a steady flow of business, you’ll also want to provide ways to attract and entertain non-sports fans. The key is knowing how far you can go to create an environment that will appeal to the casual crowd, without interfering with the sporting atmosphere enjoyed by your regular customers. There are various ways that you can cater to both sports fans and non-sports fans alike.

Set up Game Stations

Creating a game room in your sports bar can give customers fun activities to do while they wait for their food and keep them ordering drinks while they play. You can include games like:

  • Arcade games
  • Dartboards
  • Board games
  • Jenga
  • Pinball machines
  • Billiards

Feature Competitive Events

Competitive games get guests involved and excited, especially when there are prizes to be won. For prizes, you can offer a free beverage or appetizer, merchandise with your sports bar's logo on it, or gift cards. Here are some competitive events you may be interested in featuring:

  • Trivia nights
  • Cornhole tournaments
  • Backyard beer games
  • Card table games
  • A basketball hoop to shoot for prizes

Host Live Appearances

Hosting Live Appearances at a sports bar for marketing

Creating events like live appearances can give your customers something to look forward to and bring in a new crowd of faces who come to support the act and order food and drinks while they are there. Some suggestions for live appearances include:

  • Book a local band
  • Feature a local comedian
  • Host an open mic night
  • Bring in a local celebrity to do signings

Rent out Spaces

Larger parties of customers tend to gravitate toward locations where their group can have an added level of privacy. By adding a party room that can be rented or a patio that can be reserved, customers can then host private events at your sports bar. When those areas are not booked, they can be used for overflow seating.

Back to Top

You can build these tips into your sports bar marketing plan to start bringing in customers and keep them coming back for more, whether they are sports fans or not. However, don’t be discouraged if you do not see immediate positive feedback after implementing one of these ideas. Give it time, poll your regular customers about their needs and wants, and adjust accordingly to achieve success in your sports bar.

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