Sports bars are an interesting market, because they have the potential to host special events for the whole year and can bring together many very different people from different backgrounds with different interests.
While there is no broad surefire advice you can follow to increase your business in such a diverse and crowded market, in this article, we're going to look at five sports bar marketing ideas that have already been used and found success in the industry.
Please bear in mind that while the list below features many tried and true suggestions, the most important thing is knowing your area and the needs of your customers.
1. Give people a reason to party.
Sports bars already have a rich lineup of events; playoffs, Final Four, the World Series, but you can add more to that. When there aren't any major games going on, fire up the Flux Capacitor and show throwback games to keep the hype train rolling even in the off season or on bi-weeks for the local favorite team.
You can run pay-per-view sporting events to draw in people that can't pay to view them themselves (this also gives you the convenient ability to charge an extra few dollars per person that comes to watch the exclusive event, because sports fans understand the cost).
Also make sure to cash in on every holiday you're open; even the family ones. Plan an event on Thanksgiving, if you know that your regulars haven't got anyone to spend the day with. If you have a capable chef and can order food at a decent rate, get special foods for the special event. There's nothing that'd get a football fan to a Thanksgiving dinner faster than a turducken.
A constant stream of events will keep people new coming in, and keep your usual crowd coming back to see what's new.
2. Make sure you always look like you're giving the customers a great deal.
You can win a crowd over with half-priced wing nights, and you'll easily make up the profit in appetizers, drinks, and loyalty. Try greater deals for greater numbers of wings. Half-priced and ten-cent wings are wonderful for someone coming in to buy a dozen and drink alone, but you stand to make much greater gains if you bring in a large party of people looking to order a hundred wings at seventy percent off or market your ten-cent wings as "100 wings for $10".
Always make the deals much more appetizing for a group. It doesn't even always have to be wings, you can do a group rate on draft beer, or have the price per bowl of nachos go down by ten percent for each person on the bill.
3. Find a non-sports way to get people into your bar.
While the main draw of a sports bar is always the sports, a side attraction can never hurt. Poker is wildly popular right now, Texas Hold 'Em in particular. Run a few tables of card games, perhaps with no actual gambling depending on your local laws, but let people have some chips and tell them to have fun.
Offer free snacks for players, or perhaps create a prize for whoever ends up with the most chips, if an actual exchange of money isn't allowed. A $10 giftcard or coupon for a dozen free wings to the winner will ensure a fierce competition and at least one returning customer. Make sure you have room on or near the gaming tables for storing drinks, though, because you don't want people to stop buying things so they can play cards.
4. Free live performances can draw a crowd.
Once or twice weekly, you can host an event in which you get a local band or comedian to come out and perform. Aside from the obvious interest, it'll draw from passersbys peering into your window to read about your special events and promotions. Besides that, the performers will bring their friends to see their show, and their friends will need something to eat or drink. This is a win-win situation, as both you and your performer get free publicity.
Be sure to check the content of their act before you allow them to hit the stage, because you don't want them singing/joking about anything that will completely alienate your target demographic. If you can't find someone to hit the stage that week, you can call back old favorites or do an open mic night.
5. Sponsor something that matters to someone.
It can be a little-league team, or a charity, or even a bikini car wash, as long as it gets your name out to new consumers in a positive light. If you know you haven't got many parents as customers, sponsoring the local school's football team at least lets some people with children know that you exist and are willing to help the community.
While this list of sports bar marketing ideas is no substitute for knowing your crowd, trying the various things on it can be a good start to finding out the specific needs and wants that your area has for bars. Hopefully these suggestions will help you find whatever it was that you were missing and allow your sports bar to become a huge success instead of a depressing dive, but don't get too discouraged if your efforts aren't immediately rewarded. Just keep posting the signs outside and handing out the fliers, make sure the public is aware of the promotions you're trying, and give it a bit of time. If you do something great, people will notice.