'Enough staff, enough booze and enough food'
Liz Reece of Café Football, a stone’s throw from West Ham’s London Stadium in Stratford, East London, commented: “after a number of years in the sports bar business I have learned that it’s always best to be prepared for the unexpected.
“As a local to the West Ham stadium it is the games that they lose that can create more problems than the games that are won. Lost games are not only bad for morale but revenue! Bad atmospheres lead to unhappy people who will squabble with anyone from a staff member to another guest and that way danger lies.
“Luckily West Ham managed to stay put at the end of last year’s disappointing season. It’s strange the empathy I feel for the regulars though, being a Liverpool fan myself, my heart goes out to them when things don’t go the way they hoped, and I don’t mean that in a patronising way, we all know, as football enthusiasts, how that feels.
“So will we approach things differently this year? No not really. It’s all about being ready. Enough staff, enough booze and enough food, that’s as hard as it gets really. You cant beat the atmosphere of a good game whether it’s at the stadium or on the TV. It’s addictive. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else - even when Liverpool lose!”
The transfer window has slammed shut, but before Manchester United and Leicester City kick off the 2018/19 league season in a Friday night kick-off, The Morning Advertiser looks at what lessons pubs can learn from last season.
You only get one chance to make a first impression
According to Matchpint, pubs find themselves in the same boat as title-chasers and relegation battlers alike this August, with a strong start to the Premier League season imperative all round.
“The opening weekends of the season provide pubs the best opportunity to attract new customers. A combination of new season optimism and a return to the habit of watching the big match in the pub every weekend has fans hungry for a new, regular venue.
“Last year’s fixture search data showed that interest in the Premier League fluctuated greatly across the season. Unsurprisingly the peak time for searches came in the first few weeks of the season. However, what followed was a general decrease in interest as the season progressed.
“it’s crucial, therefore, that your pub is offering the best fan experience as possible in the early weeks of the season as this is your chance to secure new punters as regulars for the season. Data shows that 93% of fans will go back to a pub they’ve previously watched sport in, so putting on a great show is a worthwhile investment.”
To find out which fixtures are being broadcast in the first month of the 2018/19 season, see The Morning Advertiser’s guide here.
Know when people are searching for sport
According to Matchpint: “Doing a great piece of marketing is only half the battle, getting people to see that marketing is the real challenge. Search data shows that 49% of fans make up their mind on where to go one to five days before the fixture, so just advertising on the morning of the game isn’t enough.
“Football fans’ searches peak between 4pm and 7pm, with social media interaction peaking between 1pm and 5pm. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you’re scheduling posts to go out between 4pm and 6pm in the lead up to big games to have maximum impact.
“One direct quote from a fan underscores the importance of this approach: ‘If a pub doesn’t take their sports offering online seriously, I doubt they will when I’m there’. So treat your online presence exactly like your in-pub experience.”
Matchpint offers regular insights and pub assets such as social media images, videos and content to share with customers, via its weekly newsletter.
Cross promote to your loyal football fans
While top flight football provides the core of many sport pubs' offering, the more successful outlets use it as just one aspect of an extensive programme of live coverage.
“The football season should be your bread and butter, but it’s getting more of your football regulars in for events such as boxing and NFL that can turn a good year into a great year.
“Last year’s fixture search data on MatchPint showed that, despite a total increase in searches of 18%, interest in football relative to other sports, is decreasing. Two years ago, football fixtures accounted for 48% of all MatchPint searches but that has since decreased to 43% and then again to 37% in the following years.
“The growth in interest in boxing, NFL and other niche sports has been a big factor in this. It’s imperative to engage your key football crowd and get them back into the pub for the other biggest non-football events.”
“The importance of this is further verified by data showing that fans tend to spend 15% more during a visit when watching boxing than when watching football, so you can no longer rely purely on football to be a great sports pub.”
Outperforming the sofa
Jonathan Fone, marketing executive at Stonegate, commented: "We know that customers spend more in pubs, on average, while watching sport. Driving that spend per head even further is a key lever to growth, so it's important to tailor your offer to suit the customer.
"For example, two out of three customers who come to watch sport in pubs are male, and these customers are predominantly younger (52% are aged 18-34). We know that younger customers have a higher desire to pre-book.
"When it comes to the Premier League, all Stonegate sports sites are reactive to what’s going on in the league. We also gauge where local interest is higher, so we can anticipate how big certain fixtures will be for sites and let fans know that they're being shown.
"We’ve partnered with official Premier League sponsors, Carling, for another year of exciting Premier League linked initiatives, one of which is the They Score, You Score feature on their Carling Tap app, where our customers can win some amazing prizes, such as tickets, merchandise and pints through a collector mechanic.
"For any pub, the biggest competitor is not other operators, but the sofa, so ensuring great experiences though excellent sports execution is key.”