A pub's guide to: The World Cup

Russia World Cup 2018: Put your tech on the line

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

World first: The Russia 2018 World Cup will be the first in history to be broadcast in 4KUHD.
World first: The Russia 2018 World Cup will be the first in history to be broadcast in 4KUHD.
One of the greatest events in the sporting calendar, the World Cup is something publicans look forward to with great anticipation. But, with competition from HD TVs at home, pubs need to ensure their technology is pitch perfect before the first whistle blows.

According to research, size does matter – when it comes to TV screens and showing sport, that is. The bigger the better, says MatchPint. Additionally, figures by CGA suggest visibility is an important factor for sports fans when deciding where to watch a match. However, it’s not just about the screens and sound. Publicans should think about further technology that may be available to ensure consumers receive that all-round experience they are after.

The Morning Advertiser​ talks to industry experts, plus publicans whose preparations are well under way for the World Cup, on how important up-to-date technology is and what to consider before investing.

Technology revolution

Technology has evolved exponentially since the last World Cup in 2014.

Sports fans can now watch games in HD quality on their laptops or phones while on the move, or on their 4K (also known as Ultra HD) TVs at home.

This is of concern to MatchPint’s co-founder Dominic Collingwood.

“Up-to-date technology for publicans who want to show the World Cup is massively important. It is an area where we are seeing huge acceleration in quality of product in the home,” he explains. 

“And, the quality of viewing experiences in homes, which are ultimately the place we are competing with, has improved much quicker than the pub-viewing experience.

“So, if we are trying to encourage people to get off their sofa and into the pub, we need to give them an experience which is better than they are going to get at home.”

MatchPint research shows that having a big screen is the most important aspect for people when choosing to watch sport in a pub, with commentary available and proximity following closely behind.

“Big screens, focusing people’s attention to a single place, rather than splitting across multiple screens is generally what we see here as a key contributor for fans when looking to watch a match,” Collingwood says.

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Immerse yourself

There are multiple aspects to consider before pubs decide to invest in AV systems.

As a minimum, Collingwood suggests having a high-quality projector, with good surround sound, as well as at least one other high-quality (minimum) 42in HD TV.

Casio UK senior national account manager Alan Garratt says this is an exciting time for technology in the hospitality sector, especially with what is now available.

“From our experience, pubs that are looking to the future are making areas that are more immersive,” he says. 

“It’s not just a screen on the wall, it’s a space that truly emulates being at the match.” 

Garratt explains that to get the best out of technology, pubs need to consider the application, location and viewing distance of the audience. 

“In projection, there are 4K options for big-screen displays for use in large rooms, or in areas where people have to walk in front of the beam, ultra short-throw projectors can be placed above and very close to the screen to give an uninterrupted view. 

“Projection technology offers a lot of benefits to pubs over flat-panel displays; such as larger images and high brightness, as well as reduced power consumption. They are also very flexible in that they can be moved around to different areas more easily, as the brackets are much less obtrusive.” 

John Shreeve, managing director for The Big Screen Company, agrees and advises pubs to invest in the best projector they can afford, on the biggest screen that will fit the location.

However, before jumping in, there are various factors to balance.

“If the room is brightly lit, or there are windows nearby, then the brightness output, or light output, in the projector is an important factor,” he explains.

“You can get a bright projector that doesn’t deliver high contrast and that might be the best solution. The best thing to do here is to get good advice on the right blend against the budget.”

The same goes for screen size – for example, consider how many people there will be, how close they are going to be to the screen and how high the ceiling is.

“There’s no point putting a really big screen in if the centre of the image, which is where people are looking, is too low down and no one can see what’s going on,” he explains.

Leading by example

In preparation for the World Cup, manager of last year’s Great British Pub Awards’ Best Live Entertainment pub – Rendezvous, in Weymouth – Keith Treggiden is leaving nothing to chance and is investing £20,000 in the venue’s technology. 

Already having more than 20 screens in his venue, the amount includes installing four projectors and the hiring of a big outdoor screen.

“I’ve invested that much money because I want to be number one on the high street,” he explains. “We already have a name for ourselves for being the place for big events anyway, so we are not going to do that with Mickey Mouse equipment.  

“We don’t want people to be crammed in, we want people to feel quite relaxed with it, and at the end of the game I want people to stay.

“Wherever you stand, you will see a screen, you won’t have to stretch your neck at all. That is what we are aiming for.”

Treggiden advises pubs to search the market and see what’s best for the venue before buying.

“To me, it’s all about the HD. It’s about the resolution. You can go cheap if you just want a one-off effect, but if you are doing this long term, I wouldn’t say ‘go cheap’.”

The little things

Of course, to successfully show the World Cup, not every pub needs to spend a small fortune.

“There are some very simple, easy improvements that people can make,” says Shreeve. 

“How good is your signal quality, are you allowing your TVs, which are probably HD, to actually work in HD? If you are not feeding them with a high definition signal, then you should be, and that is a way of giving the customer a good time.”

Shreeve advises updating a pub’s tech by using a full HD signal delivery system – which is a piece of tech pubs can install using the same TVs they have now, but delivering the best signal quality to improve how they look.

Phil Cutter of the Gardeners Arms, in Norwich, Norfolk, has tackled a similar problem in preparation for this major sporting event.

“We’ve got a new state-of-the-art digibox that spreads the broadcasting signal – so, rather than just having one TV running off one Sky box in 4K, it attaches itself to all the TVs on our main bar. 

“We can control that through an iPad or our phones to change channel or volume on the telly. The picture quality is without doubt the best in Norwich, if not Norfolk – it really is absolutely stunning watching football in 4K.”

Or, if publicans have already invested in multiple TV screens in the past, another bit of technology which could be invested in is AdGen’s digital signage software, which uses unused televisions – for example, at times when matches aren’t on – to display pub adverts.

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Ease of service

Where visibility in screens is a key factor for sports fans, another is ease of service, according to CGA.

Whether it’s machines that can accept mobile and contactless payments such as Apple Pay, to investing in ordering apps, saving people valuable seconds could be what pubs need to guarantee repeat customers throughout the tournament.

“I think if you really want to stand out from the crowd, then having 4K is good to have, but you will soon find it difficult to compete purely on screen or sound technology alone,” Collingwood says. 

“It’s not the area you are going to get people in. Having a big screen, yes you can differentiate yourself from home, but an Ultra HD TV screen, that is taken as read. Nearly everyone has one at home. 

“The thing that I would really encourage people to think about is what you can provide that being on a sofa at home can’t.”

He continues: “There are ways of speeding up the pouring of a pint. There’s also ways to quicken how someone can pay for that pint, and how quickly someone can place the order. If someone is spending 30 seconds getting off his or her chair to go to the bar to order, can you eradicate that time? What friction is in that journey, and what can you improve to make sure someone wants a drink or food? Can it get there as quickly as it possibly can?” 

A pub that has considered this is Corey’s Sports Bar, in Tamworth, Staffordshire, which has recently installed the portable Bottoms Up Draft Beer Dispensing System– which can pour four pints in under five seconds.

“Obviously, serving that many beers, that quickly, is a blessing,” says manager Ryan Bolwell.

“The quicker we can serve people, the more are leaving as happy customers. It’s also a way of keeping people in for longer.”

“It all adds to the atmosphere and the experience. Things like speed of service are really important, especially for major sporting events like the World Cup.”

Communication is key

According to statistics, one in two sports fans make their decision on where to watch a match at least two days in advance.

And technology – from a marketing perspective to ensure that people are aware of how good your experience is going to be – could prove invaluable. 

“We talk about the fact that Millennials are spending 220 minutes a day on their phone, they are not looking at your posters as much as they used to, they are busy on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat,” says Collingwood. 

“How are you communicating and using mobile technology to target the right people at the right time? 

“It doesn’t matter how good your screens are or payment systems are, if there is no one in the pub, it’s a massive waste of money.”

According to Garratt, having up-to-date technology can act as a great marketing tool, enticing people to stay longer and increase spend per head, all the while improving customer experience.

But, when thinking about investing in technology before the World Cup, the main thing isn’t how much you spend – it needs to be thought about in detail.

Ensure you are getting what will work best for you and your venue.

Enhance your World Cup offer

With the World Cup fast approaching now is a great time to ensure entertainment offer is up to scratch. Innstay’s BeeBox is an all in one system that allows you to control your music and on screen content.

Get customers singing in their seats

Get the crowd going with a full football playlist, which can be scheduled across the week.

On screen games

The suite of games and quizzes available to use with this system are great for getting people in early and making them stay after the match.

Digital signage

Innstay make sure that all of your football fixtures are up to date and advertised on your screens so your customers are aware of the upcoming games. Operators advertise food and drinks offers here too.

Happy hour button

Play the World Cup themed happy hour game before and after the match and attract customers over to bag a bargain.

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