A pub's guide to: the world cup

World Cup consumers: be a home for every nation

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

How will pub footfall for matches during this summer's World Cup differ to crowds drawn to pubs by Premier League action?
How will pub footfall for matches during this summer's World Cup differ to crowds drawn to pubs by Premier League action?
The shape of the ball and a lot of the players are the same, but as far as the make-up of pub footfall is concerned, the Premier League and World Cup are different ball games. What changes will Russia 2018 make to the line-up at your pub?

Who watches international football?

Matchpint has used data gathered during Euro 2016 to determine which age groups are most likely to prop up your bar during this summer’s World Cup compared to club competition crowds.

Euro 2016

  • 18-24: 26%
  • 25-34: 31%
  • 35-44: 17%
  • 45+: 26%

Premier League

  • 18-24: 19%
  • 25-34: 43%
  • 35-44: 18%
  • 45+: 20%

Champions League

  • 18-24: 31%
  • 25-34: 41%
  • 35-44: 14%
  • 45+: 14%

Matchpint also found that international football was more female friendly. 24% of Euro 2016 pub-going fans were female compared to 18% for the Premier League.

More of a family feel

AB InBev UK on-trade sales director Rory Mclellan highlights that the difference between Premier League and World Cup crowds is what makes Russia 2018 such a golden opportunity for pubs this summer.

He says: “You’re not just selling to the same people you sell to for the rest of the year. You’re bringing new people in and, if you do a good job and retain them, you get that legacy benefit thereafter.”

Wales missing out on qualification after such a successfulEuro 2016 campaign isn’t deterring publicans like Lee Price, of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth, from making the most of the less stereotypical crowds looking for a spot to watch the football this summer.

“We are going to have a diverse public, so we are going to have to use zones to make sure we’re not spoiling people’s experience.

“There will be a portion of the bar we’ll designate for families and young kids because we’ll want to ensure that their experience is as good as others. There’s often foul language associated with referees’ decisions that people don’t agree with.”

Paul Eastwood of the two-time Great British Pub Awards’ Best Sport Pub, the Famous Three Kings, has drawn upon his background in sports science and sociology to ensure that his pub draws a family-friendly crowd – establishing the venue as a place for fans of any team to follow their side’s fortunes rather than letting a team’s support lay down exclusive roots at his pub.

“We’ll never say we’re an England pub, we are a sports pub. When we have lots of French fans, I will say ‘we are French-friendly, but we are not a ‘French pub’ because once people start to identify it as their territory, that’s when you start to get the trouble.”

Eastwood has worked hard to eliminate toxic chanting between fans from the Famous Three Kings, and while he admits that a small minority of fervent fans have chosen to drink elsewhere, the atmosphere in the Famous Three Kings is, in his opinion, better for it.

Making the most of your area

Alongside targeting English students and holidaymakers in Aberystwyth who will want to follow the fortunes of their national teams this summer, Price makes the point that freshening up his pub’s offering to existing sports consumers is essential.

“If we can target local football teams and their families, ones that we know use us in a social capacity from time to time, and encourage them with a prize draw that wins them kit sponsorship for the upcoming season, there’s something in it for them to bring their families and team-mates to the venue.

“You’ve got to constantly look to personalise the offer. One thing doesn’t suit all. You can go into these promotions, overthink them and make them very complicated, then they’re not fit for purpose.

“I’ve gone out there and heard great ideas but I know they’re not going to work with my demographic, building and business. You’ve got to be brave enough to take the best of these ideas and leave others.”

While echoing a joke made by Andy Murray before the 2006 World Cup in Germany that caused a nationwide sense of humour bypass, Price sees an opportunity in not tying his pub too tightly to one country’s progress this summer.
“It’s easier for me to promote the World Cup as a whole because we haven’t got a national interest in the competition – the only national interest Wales has is who beats England!

“We don’t want to make it up as we go along. We just want to say ‘look, we haven’t got a national interest in it so how do we now get as many different teams and representative visit our bar to watch their team and then incentivise them to use us as their base?’.”

The international focus is something that Eastwood takes very seriously at the Famous Three Kings. His pub sits among pockets of European communities in west London with the World Cup presenting him with the opportunity to give them a place to follow their nation’s fortunes.

“We’re quite big for Denmark and we’ll get a few Germans, but the Spanish and the French will be our big ones.

“We’re actually gutted that Italy haven’t got there, they’re probably our best-supported nation, along with England, so that’s a massive miss.”

Eastwood acknowledges that with different nationalities come different drinking cultures. While English and Premier League fans will traditionally drink more beer and be a bit more rowdy while a game is on, Spanish and French crowds encourage him to change his offering.

“We know the Spanish and the French are going to eat more but not drink as much so we cater the business very differently to them.

“When they’re on we’ll have more floor and kitchen staff, but fewer bar staff, whereas we know when England are there, we can have fewer kitchen and floor team but we need to pile people on the bar.”

The international skew, and the less boisterous environment carries the benefit of creating a more gender-neutral atmosphere at the Famous Three Kings than for England or Premier League fixtures.

“I’d say we get a few more females for the French and the Spanish matches – it’s more of a social, quiet affair.

“We find it’s a bit more female-friendly because the atmosphere is not quite as loud or as charged as it is for an England game.”

Target international students

Phil Cutter of the Gardeners Arms in Norwich, known locally as the Murderers, has taken steps to engage with the University of East Anglia (UEA) in order to provide a place for members of its international students union to watch matches from Russia this summer.

Cutter says: “It’s something we’ve done proactively. The international students’ union at UEA has grown quite rapidly – Norwich is a hotbed of European students coming across and studying.

“We’ve noticed just recently, with the Bundesliga and La Liga, that we’re seeing more and more students from those countries coming in and watching the games. It’s easy to show the English games, but it’s about growing the audience.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of foreign students come in to watch the games that people probably wouldn’t normally watch.

“We’ve got a lot of Spanish students who seem really interested in coming down to watch Spain, as well as a few French and Polish students. It won’t just be driven around the England games."

In addition, with an estimated 21% of adults choosing not to drink alcohol at all, and a large number of the 64 matches from Russia 2018 being played on weeknights – the increasing consumer demand for
non-alcoholic drinks could be a stand-out feature of this summer’s World Cup.

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners explains: “With many live games screened on weeknights, offering a wide choice of soft options may also appeal to those choosing not to drink alcohol during the week.

“The rise of the health-conscious consumer also means demand for soft drinks containing reduced calories and sugar is increasing, and it’s important for licensees to consider this as they look to encourage people to watch sport at their premises.”

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