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Does having a TV make you a sports bar?

  • 10 min read

When it comes time for fall sports, do you turn up the volume in your tasting room, or run and hide? Owners and managers often have a love-hate relationship with televised sports: it can be the biggest sales night of the week, but also the biggest hassle.

Friends watching TV photo for sports bar postHaving a TV doesn’t make you a sports bar. Properly setting and exceeding customer expectations makes you a sports bar. Or a place for karaoke. For yoga. For après ski drinks or for gathering before a ride. Successful storytelling starts by putting something out into the world, then paying it off with the experience. Problem is, most craft beverage producers don’t tell customers what to expect when they visit, so there’s greater risk the customer will leave unenthused or worse, disappointed. A “meh” review should never be the goal!

We’re going to use American Football in our examples just to illustrate the point:

The craft beverage industry makes customers work harder than they should. Think about it: there are tens of thousands of breweries, wineries, distilleries and other craft beverage producers competing for drinkers’ attention. For a new customer, who’s going to win that coin toss? The producer who knows WHAT they are and communicates WHY the customer should care will always come out on top. They pave the path of least resistance for the drinker, making it easy to choose you over ten others like you. And while the examples may involve football, the point is for you and your team to always connect tactics back to clear strategy, whatever the season.

what if football defines you?

Football fans photo for sports bar postDuring the fall, you may want to be known as a great place to watch football games. Fans who watch tend to stay longer, spend more and visit regularly. Sounds like a win, right? For all the upsides, there can be notable downsides as well: crowds, noise, cleaning and costly overtime. And what about your customers the rest of the week? If they’re not interested in football, they quickly learn to avoid your place on gameday.

If your tasting room has found success with football, it’s time to assess how important football is to your overall business. Because when you know what role football plays in driving sales, then you are able to see more clearly how to support that engine. But how can you really know if football “defines” your business? Start by asking yourself the following:

  • Is 30% or more of my revenue tied to football events?
  • Are the owners and managers avid state and local sports fans?
  • Do guests often refer to you as a football bar?
  • Are you in walking distance to a major sports venue?

Any combination of the above may be enough to qualify you as a great place to watch football, at which point you must decide whether to go all-in or play a game of light-touch. Below are 29 tips for leaning into football this season:

Provide the SPACE:

  • Acoustics: sound tends to bounce off walls and objects. Consider fabric panels or other measures to soften/absorb.
  • TVs: how many TVs you provide will depend on your desired guest experience. Plan for 20 viewers per TV, depending on sightlines, angles and obstacles.
  • Cable package: whether you go in on Sunday NFL Ticket or some other package, make sure you have ALL of the games for your home team at a minimum.
  • Decorations: having thematic prints, signs and sports paraphernalia help build the energy and vibe around gameday.
  • Latest tech: for TVs, bigger is better, and the highest-resolution possible. Guests enjoy gameday conveniences like mobile ordering, game trackers and reliable Wi-Fi.
  • Comfortable seats: it may seem obvious, but if guests will be watching for hours, give them a great reason to sit.

Create the EVENT:

  • Season opener: kick-off your season with a blowout event for guests, including food trucks, live music, meet-the-team and activities for the whole family.
  • Pep rally: get fans fired up about any game with an event the night before, extending the traffic and sales opportunity.
  • Tailgating photo for sports bar postPre- and post-game tailgates: who needs to tailgate at the stadium when your favorite craft beverage producer has a better party in their parking lot? Dial-up the energy with outside grills, patio decorations and music.
  • Team members in jerseys: don’t be afraid to let your staff break the dress code on gameday. Customers are more comfortable ordering from someone cheering right alongside them.
  • Bar games: because not everyone will care to watch the game…think cards versus board games. The last thing you want is a heated game of Monopoly drawing eyes away from the screen.
  • Get a local player to visit: during an off-week, pull whatever strings you can to have a meet-and-greet or signing event. And plan for a big crowd, potential parking issues and superfan-stalker-types.
  • Insider info: offer a class on selecting or managing your fantasy football team, then host the draft party.
  • Team scoreboards: this includes day-of game and seasonal tracking. If your tasting room encourages friendly competition and bragging rights, consider tracking customer-formed teams as well.
  • Giveaways: give guests reasons to be competitive outside of the game itself, including play-by-play prizes, team trivia contests and awarding an overall game winner.
  • PA announcements: take advantage of time outs, halftime, pre- and post-game to highlight promotions, announce contest winners and add to the general gameday vibe/energy.
  • Partnerships with local business: anytime is a great time to share the love with local business. Artists, food trucks, t-shirt screen printers and other services would provide value-added services for your fan base.
  • Charity tie-in: considering donating a portion of proceeds for the day to a local charitable group, with a kicker if the local team wins.

Win with FOOD:

  • Limit the menu: if your tasting room has a full-service kitchen attached, you may wish to limit your menu to those items which can be made quickly and consistently. Think sandwiches, fries and grilled items.
  • Bar food photo for sports bar postDrink specials: focus on affordability and low-to-no alcohol options. You can’t go wrong [temporarily] naming drinks after teams, players and coaches.
  • Wings: a staple of the gameday table. Consider cauliflower meatless options.
  • Print disposable menus: gameday menus include the limited selection of food plus drink specials. Use back-of-menu space for team stats, schedules and other season information.
  • Provide take-out: if your guests are still into the game but can’t stay, make sure they can take the party home with them with to-go bags and beverage containers.
  • Food trucks: no on-site kitchen? No problem! Just arrange for a food truck an hour before and after the game. Given the demand, you may want to negotiate a guaranteed take for the evening to ensure the truck shows up.
  • Local delivery: keep a stack of menus from local restaurants that deliver to your location.

Promote the EXPERIENCE:

  • Events calendar: promote the event on your own website, detailing gameday menus, drink specials, kickoff, contests and other promotions. If appropriate, leverage Facebook and Google Events to reach new audiences. Can be promoted weeks in advance.
  • Social posts: tease the event, revealing details over time, up to a week in advance.
  • Go live on Facebook: on gameday, consider creating a Facebook Live event to help draw additional foot traffic to your tasting room.
  • Prompt fan posts: make sure #hashtags specific to your brand or event are clearly displayed throughout the space. Create selfie backdrops to further promote social sharing.

These are just a few of the ways that you can set, then overdeliver on guest expectations. The goal is transparency: give drinkers the clearest idea possible about what experiencing a game in your tasting room looks like. Then you can start to look at all the promises you make to customers through a more critical lens.

what if you’re not sure what defines you?

But wait, your customers don’t care about football, so what do you do?

Football is just a timely example of what COULD define your business, but there are plenty of others. Truth is, football is a tactic – a way to build customer loyalty and drive sales. It may define you during the season, but what about after? You don’t just go dark for 7 months, holding your breath until next fall. So, you decide to promote all the state and local professional sports, with a year-round schedule for football, soccer, hockey, basketball and baseball. And voila! You’re a sports bar.

Cycling group photo for sports bar post99% of the craft beverage producers out there will not be defined by sports. They will be known for something else. But if not football, what then? Yoga? A “Pints and Poses” event once a week doesn’t make you a yoga destination. Cycling? Sure, you may sponsor the local riders who meet pre- or post-ride at your tasting room, but you cater to a wider group of drinkers than that. These are all tactics, a healthy balance of which helps fill out an events calendar for the month. Congratulations! You’ve got something for everyone.

We’re being a little cheeky here to prove the point: your business is not defined by tactics. It’s something bigger. And if you aren’t making that clear whenever you talk with new customers, they are less likely to give your craft beverage business a second thought.

what are you communicating to [new] customers?

In today’s competitive environment, the goal is for you to replace each of your current customers with three new ones. This is especially challenging when your competitors are going after the same prize. Which is why we believe every craft beverage producer needs a succinct one-liner to give new customers a reason to say Yes. In advertising, this is called a brand positioning statement, and it follows a format similar to this:

[Our company] is a [category/industry/vertical] company that provides [our target customer/audience] with [list of benefits] by [reason for believing].

Following that path, your brand positioning statement may look like:

We’re craft beverage producers that provide customers of legal drinking age in our city, region and state with flavorful, innovative beverages from our talented and award-winning production team.

Problem is, you look like basically every other craft beverage producer. There’s little-to-no differentiation there. Which is why the team at Market Your Craft likes to dig a little deeper, working with you to come up with a brand story worth sharing. In it, you’ll define what makes you different, helping new customers to quickly connect emotionally with you. This requires:

  • Understanding your craft beverage superpower
  • Knowing what’s sacred in the stories
  • Identifying why customers should care (about you, your brand, your product)
  • Defining good, better and best customers in your target market(s)
  • Sizing-up the competition to find niche opportunities
  • Selecting the most effective media for the message
  • Budgeting accordingly

Together, let’s craft a one-liner that truly defines you and the value you provide to your target customer. Download our Guide titled, “Storytelling: Share Your Superpower,” today or set up time on our calendar to discuss. We can’t wait to help you and your team drive traffic, build engagement and capture new sales!

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