GP Generator: Rugby Six Nations

By Phil Mellows

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Rugby union, Six nations championship, Rugby

Make your pub a destination for rugby fans
Make your pub a destination for rugby fans
The eagerly-anticipated Six Nations rugby union tournament kicks off soon and licensees should make the most of the opportunity. As The Publican's Morning Advertiser finds, there is plenty they can do to entice the fans.

If it’s February it must be the start of the RBS Six Nations tournament, five weekends of international rugby action with every minute of it on terrestrial TV, and at ideal times for watching games down the pub. Yet it seems a large majority of fans don’t tune in at the local.

According to consumer research carried out by Guinness last summer among customers at pubs that screen rugby, only 16% will watch a game in the pub, with another 42% watching it at home and the rest missing it altogether.

the number of pubs in which Guinness will be running a competition

the number of weekends over which the tournament will run

For Guinness, tournament sponsor and partner of the Rugby Football Union, this represents a major commercial opportunity that it’s determined to realise.

“Our main focus is to get as many rugby fans as possible to watch the Six Nations in the pub,” says senior brand manager Christopher Wooff.

“It’s the biggest rugby tournament of the year and, as it kicks off at a time when people have been going out less after Christmas, it’s often the start of the year’s social calendar, a reason to get the guys back together.

“We want to target those fans and get them to grab their mates and go out to the local. It should be pushing at an open door, really.”

"Publicans need to emphasise sociability by offering food platters, bottle buckets and pitchers to share"

With that in mind, Wooff suggests a three-point plan for making your pub a rugby venue of choice:

1. Offer the best viewing experience for customers

Almost everything else is secondary. If you don’t get that right you won’t attract rugby fans. According to our research, the viewing experience is what influences them the most.

2. Signpost your business as a rugby pub

Increase the visibility of your pub using PoS and advertising, building an association with rugby and gaining customer loyalty. Be consistent about your approach and fans will gradually get into the habit of coming to your pub for the game. That will benefit you for future rugby tournaments too.

3. Take it over the line

Encourage rugby fans to stay longer in the pub by offering them simple food at half-time, and make good use of promotions.

For its part, as well as putting in place the basics in terms of PoS, fixture lists and beer quality, Guinness will be running a competition in 2,000 pubs where drinkers can win a prize when they buy the last pint in the keg. It will also be unveiling new advertising as the Six Nations kicks off on 1 February.

Punch Taverns licensees are among those who will be receiving a Guinness Six Nations tournament promotional kit.

“Telling people what you’re doing ahead of time is paramount and can determine where they watch the rugby,” says Punch category manager Stephen Martin.

“We provide licensees with a free marketing disc with printable posters, as well as competitive offers on promotional materials so they can publicise what they are showing inside and outside the pub. It’s also important to use social media. There’s no greater — or less expensive — way to promote your events than by using the likes of Facebook and Twitter.”

Rugby fans can be lured from their settees by offering “something different, and an environment that cannot be replicated at home”, he believes. Ideas include running a sweepstake, plus live music or quizzes after the match to keep customers in the pub.

“Publicans need to emphasise sociability by offering food platters, bottle buckets and pitchers to share,” Martin adds.

“It’s also very important to have snacks that cater for spectators, whether it’s hot dogs and chips or nuts and crisps.”

Case Study

The Walkabout, Cardiff


A mere drop-kick from the Millennium Stadium, where reigning Six Nations champs Wales will play their home matches, thousands of fans will head for the Walkabout on St Mary Street to cheer on their rugby idols.

On a match day, the bar will typically welcome 8,000 people through the doors before, during and after the game.

Jac Broodryk, who has managed the venue since 2002, says it takes “meticulous planning” to maximise the opportunity that the Six Nations brings. In fact, he’s produced a 23-point checklist to ensure the business does just that.

Work for the Six Nations always starts in the new year, when Broodryk and his team go through the fixture list and assess what they’ll need.

“We know we’ll have fans in here sticking up for different teams and they all drink differently, so we have to make sure we get the right stock order,” he explains.

The bar works closely with the official supporters’ clubs and the teams themselves, inviting them along. There are a couple of VIP areas for players and celebrities. Local radio stations are contacted, too — they often want to broadcast live from the bar.

There are meetings with local licensing officers to discuss the arrangements, and bands and DJs are booked to provide entertainment after the final whistle. Extra ‘speed bars’ are organised, along with barbecue stations serving burgers to the hungry crowd.

But the most important factor is staffing. The venue needs close to 100 people on big match days, including 55 barstaff, 16 glass collectors and 14 door supervisors, so recruitment and training is all part of the build-up.

“It’s hard work,” admits Broodryk — but it is obviously worth it.

Six Nations 2014 fixtures

Saturday, 1 February
Wales v Italy, 2.30pm
France v England, 5pm

Sunday, 2 February
Ireland v Scotland, 3pm

Saturday, 8 February
Ireland v Wales, 2.30pm
Scotland v England, 5pm

Sunday, 9 February
France v Italy, 3pm

Friday, 21 February
Wales v France, 8pm

Saturday, 22 February
Italy v Scotland, 1.30pm
England v Ireland, 4pm

Saturday, 8 March
Ireland v Italy, 2.30pm
Scotland v France, 5pm

Sunday, 9 March
England v Wales, 3pm

Saturday, 15 March
Italy v England, 12.30pm
Wales v Scotland, 2.45pm
France v Ireland, 5pm

(All matches on BBC TV)

Related topics: Sport

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