Fantasy football is a great way to attract punters to your pub
When the football fans in your pub start thinking about promotion, then so should you - but you'll probably have something completely different in mind.
The big game can be a huge draw by itself, of course, but to make the most of your football coverage through the season, and to deepen customer loyalty, you might consider introducing a fantasy game of your own.
Football is a great source of pub chat and anything a pub can add to its straightforward match coverage can fuel the conversation and also give customers a reason to arrive early and stay late.
That takes organisation and work, but if you haven't got time to do it yourself, or you can't find a member of staff or enthusiastic regular to take charge, off-the-shelf packages can ease the burden.
One of the best-established in the on-trade, which has been going now for four years, is Championship Football, by TDH Promotions Warehouse, which has been taken up by pub groups such as Punch, as well as individual licensees running community locals and sports bars.
"Interest in football is at an all-time high," commented TDH sales and marketing director Tim Hawkes. "It is a proven fact that pubs which show football on TV can do well, but pubs which add value to their football offering can do so much better.
"The key to building trade through football is to provide customers with the incentive to not only watch the match in your bar but to encourage them to arrive earlier and stay later."
Basically a fantasy football competition, Championship Football gives customers the chance to select and manage their own team, and this year TDH is offering a prize to the overall national winner - a new Fiat Punto car. Also, licensees of the three highest scoring pubs will each get a £250 Thomas Cook holiday voucher.For licensees running a successful promotion like this, there are also less tangible rewards.
If you whip up enough interest, "managers" will be popping into the pub on a regular basis to check their scores - and no doubt have a swift pint while they are there. In fact, it might well keep them coming back all season and beyond as the activity encourages them to think increasingly of it as their local.
The Banner Cross Hotel in Sheffield has been running Championship Football for the past three years as part of Punch Retail's estate-wide competition and last season regular Ben Naylor won Punch's prize for the best score - a cheque for £1,000.
Licensee Roger Pepper believes the promotion has encouraged an atmosphere of friendly competition and rivalry at the pub and is sure that the effort he puts into it is paying off.
"It practically runs itself and is relatively inexpensive," he said.
"Even when there are no Premiership matches on we get regulars in to keep their eye on suspensions and injuries in other games.
"We have also seen an excellent take-up among women over the last three years which I think improves the competitive spirit of the promotion. In fact, last season we had three women in the top 10 and one of them was second.
"I am expecting even more customers to take part in the coming season, especially as Punch has doubled the national prize money."
Roger's business development manager Duncan Rickerby has had a winner before on his patch and he encourages his pubs to get involved and make as much of the promotion as they can. "If it is well sold in by the licensee it works very well. Customers relate to it in the long term and it encourages return visits.
"I would encourage any pub with a regular trade to get involved and the friendly rivalry it creates is ideal for any sports-oriented bar. I don't even regard it as a cost because you pay next to nothing and the pay-back is tremendous.
"Planning is definitely the key. Licensees who make an early start are definitely more successful."
Punch Retail is putting more money behind the promotion this season, offering prizes of £2,000 for the top score across the estate plus £1,000 for second and £500 for third.
Pub chain competitions can be branded and TDH will provide national league tables and weekly updates.
There are plenty of add-ons available, too. TDH can supply posters to advertise games, topical sports quizzes to build the pre-match tension, first and last goal predictor charts and point-of-sale material including banners, flyers and branded T-shirts.
Meanwhile, the Jigsaw Group is launching a new game into the pub trade called On the Ball. Already used successfully by Harrogate microbrewer Daleside Brewery to help launch its new bitter, the promotion invites customers to predict the results of Premiership games throughout the season.
As part of the introductory package, licensees will also receive a version of Jigsaw's snooker-based game, Give Me a Break.
(Picture: Ben Naylor picks up a cheque for £1,000 as winner of the Punch Retail estate's Championship Football competition )
Fantasy football packages at a glance
- Championship Football
- Competitors select a 16-strong fantasy squad from a list of Premiership footballers, fill in a
registration form and indicate their starting 11
- The licensee sends off the forms to TDH which enters the team selections on its computer and confirms the teams by returning a pack to each competitor via the licensee
- Players get two points for each Premiership appearance and extra points for scoring or assisting a goal, keeping a clean sheet and so on with points lost for disciplinary offences and conceding goals
- Each week TDH distributes through the licensee, personalised updates on the number of points won and the customer's position in the pub and operator's league. They can select a new 11, buying and selling up to two players from their squad
- Prizes can be awarded to managers of the week, of the month and of a promotional period set by the licensee or pub chain. A Fiat Punto goes to the national winner at the end of the season
- To maximise involvement, licensees should advertise a night for handing out the updates and managers should be there to collect their prize
- A full season costs £255 and package deals are available from £290
- TDH: 01642 617111
On the Ball
- Licensees are provided with a detailed fixture list showing all the Premiership games for the entire season. They can photocopy as
many as they need and distribute them to players
- Jigsaw also supplies posters, instructions and a licence to use the promotion
- Competitors predict the results (for two points), the total number of goals scored over the weekend (for five points) and the highest scoring game (for three points)
- Templates are supplied to enable licensees to produce a league table each week and a running total of the prize money to build up interest
- A suggested entry fee of £1 per player provides the prize money, with perhaps half going into the weekly prize and half going into a pot for prizes at the end of the season. In this way, a league of just 10 players can raise a pot of £165 for the overall winner
- Rights to run the game costs £24.99
- The Jigsaw Group: 01423 541509