Giving the on-trade a sporting chance

There may not be a Brazilian World Cup or a Glasgow Commonwealth Games this year, but with the Rugby World Cup on the horizon and Wimbledon just around the corner there’s still plenty of live sports action for publicans to put on their screens in the coming months.

And these events represent a major opportunity to grow sales, claim drinks firms.

Publicans should promote live sports action on outdoor posters and on social media, firms say.
Publicans should promote live sports action on outdoor posters and on social media, firms say.

Gordon Muir, brand manager for Belhaven, which sponsors the Scottish Golf Union, said that as a drinks supplier the firm sees an uplift in sales “during key sporting competitions”.

Muir said there are a few key considerations for publicans looking to cash in on live sport this year.

“Make service as simple, quick and efficient as possible, as there will inevitably be a throng at the bar either side of a match and during half time,” he said.

“A special limited drinks menu, allowing groups to pre-order for half-time, and using pitchers for groups where available can help speed up service and ensure everyone is catered to before the game resumes.”

Alan Hay, on-trade controller at AG Barr, the firm behind Irn-Bru and Strathmore, agreed that live sport can have “a major positive impact in the on-trade”.

Hay said there is a particular opportunity for outlets to attract customers through “the great atmosphere that licensed premises can offer”.

“This allows families and friends to enjoy sports together and is particularly enhanced by outlets that serve food,” he said.

The Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 18 giving pubs a sporting chance at boosting sales
The Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 18 giving pubs a sporting chance at boosting sales

“A sports offer can increase both alcohol and soft drinks sales considerably.”

AG Barr’s Strathmore brand is the official water of Scottish Rugby, Scottish Swimming and the SPFL, and Hay said publicans can benefit from stocking brands that are partnered with sports events.

“By prominently displaying brands partnered with sports events, publicans can increase their relevance and credibility with their customers and can increase their sales through these associations,” said Hay.

“Brands can bring their associations with sporting events to life in pubs and bars by making use of point of sale material.

“This is proven to have a significant impact on sales.”

In terms of brand associations, alcoholic ginger beer brand Crabbie’s has made the Grand National its own in recent years, and brand manager Al Cross said the partnership has led to significant support for the on-trade.

“Our key sporting event of the year is the Crabbie’s Grand National, during which we promote activation kits across the on-trade, including posters, sweepstakes, bar runners, bunting, drip mats, etc. allowing bars to activate the event itself and generate interest in the lead-up to the Grand National,” said Cross.

Although the world’s most famous steeplechase is behind us for another year there’s still plenty to look forward to.

Cross suggested the Rugby World Cup, which starts in September, could be an event “which will generate significant interest across Scotland”.

Katerina Podtserkovskaya, head of Guinness activation in the on-trade, expects increased interest in the Irish stout brand during the World Cup – with knock-on benefits for publicans.

“[Guinness] drinkers are, generally, interested in rugby and so are more likely to visit the on-trade to watch a game,” said Podtserkovskaya.

Andrew Turner, category and trade director for Heineken, which sponsors the Rugby World Cup, said the event offers “a fantastic opportunity to pubs to generate footfall amongst patriotic rugby fans by offering them an atmosphere and experience they wouldn’t be able to replicate at home”.

To make the most of this event and other live sports, Turner said advertising is “paramount”.

“Let customers know about your plans by putting up outdoor signage to increase visibility and awareness, drawing people in,” said Turner.

“Make it really clear both inside and outside the bar that you’re showing rugby games.”

And it’s not just pints that will please punters on match day, according to Turner.

He advised publicans to consider offering food during big games.

“Match day menus with finger food and sharing platters are ideal sustenance for rugby fans that just want a nibble during games,” he said.

“Themed food is also a way of attracting customers; people are looking for anything that adds to the theatre of the experience and has added value.”

Big sports events can mean big opportunities, but Turner also warned publicans not to forget about their regulars when preparing for match day.

“No matter how much you’re tempted by the projected sales boost from the Rugby World Cup, meeting the needs of your customer demographic is key,” said Turner.

“Don’t alienate regulars.”