Sport in your pub isn't all about the football

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Sport in your pub isn't all about the football

Related tags: American football, Football

Football may be the leading sport in the UK but Mike Berry discovers why offering viewing of less popular sports, such as NFL and Formula 1, in your pub could grab a share of the market.

Showing live sport in your venue pays dividends, but licensees must do it well to reap maximum rewards. That’s the overarching conclusion of a report by sports marketing website MatchPint, which surveyed more than 1,300 pub-going sports fans and almost 600 pubs.

But many licensees are not giving themselves the best chance of success when it comes to boosting trade through showing TV sport in their pub or bar.

The report reveals there are huge numbers of sports fans looking for content beyond football, but who aren’t being sufficiently serviced by pubs. Of these sports, Formula 1 and NFL are those growing at the quickest rate. Simply letting customers know that these sports are available in your pub is a major opportunity.

It also found pay-per-view content, such as high-profile boxing, is being underutilised. While it might require a considerable financial outlay, the report says these events can be highly profitable given the right marketing.

MatchPint acknowledges showing sport requires investment in subscriptions and equipment such as TVs and sound systems, but says the nature of sports fans means this outlay is worth it; they stick around longer and spend more cash.

According to MatchPint’s app data, sports fans spend two hours 42 minutes in the pub per visit on average. This is one hour 20 minutes longer than the dwell time of an average pub visitor.

Nigel Wright, chief operating officer at managed pub group, TCG

“Sport is a huge sales driver in many of our pubs and bars, which aim to be the best place in their locality to watch the match. While football is the number one sport overall, several of our sites have built strong followings for other sports. For example, the Famous 3 Kings in Fulham attracts good crowds for ice hockey and American football, while the Golden Fleece in Chelmsford has strong ties with Essex Cricket Club. Whatever sport is showing, the key to making it a success is proper planning by the pub team to make sure every customer gets a good view of a screen, prompt service on drinks and food and a great atmosphere.”

Rugby fans were the most lavish spenders, but pubs have the opportunity to increase spend among all customers by actively driving purchases outside the traditional pre-match, half-time and post-match slots through simple solutions such as table service.

Equally, the importance of creating the right environment cannot be overstated. Fans used to watching sport at home will crave something different at the pub — especially because many will be able to access the same sports content from the comfort of their own sofa. Seven in 10 pubgoers surveyed said ‘atmosphere’ was the most important factor in choosing a pub, ahead of screen size, drinks range and value for money.


The sporting horizons of UK pubgoers are broadening — rapidly, in some cases. The report suggests it is simply not enough for pubs to stick on Premier League football and expect it to pay the bills. Operators that are neglecting rugby (both league and union), La Liga, Formula 1 and boxing are missing out.

American sport is on the rise with NFL one of the largest growing sports in the UK. MatchPint said it had experienced a 201% year-on-year growth in searches for NFL matches with sustained interest throughout the season, not just for the Super Bowl. The report found only about a third of pubs said they would be showing NFL this year — despite many of the matches being at trade-friendly times.

Taking advantage of these so-called ‘second tier’ occasions will be of increasing value.

The report also provides some interesting analysis of the ‘rhythm of the week’ when it comes to pubs showing sport.

“Super Sundays have long been thought of as the primary opportunity to drive sales during sport, but perhaps pubs aren’t taking enough advantage of the day before,” it suggests.

MatchPint says the total number of searches across all sports events is highest on Saturday reflecting the greater breadth of sport available on that day. It also suggests there is a significant opportunity outside of normal trading hours.

“While pay-per-view events offer the best opportunity in this area, there are plenty of fans looking for sport from Australia and New Zealand on a Saturday morning, early morning Formula 1 grand prix from Asia, or even laughably choreographed wrestling from the WWE.”

With the report demonstrating a variety of live sport can attract pubgoers, plus an ongoing appetite among this customer base to visit pubs to watch sport, it’s down to operators to maximise profits.

Related topics: Sport

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