Live rugby brings a major opportunity for the licensed trade this year
ODD-numbered years may mean no FIFA World Cup or Olympics, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some fantastic opportunities for operators to cash in on live sport – and this year it looks like rugby could be a key footfall driver.
A successful autumn test campaign for Scotland, PRO 12 action from the east and west coast clubs and the 2015 Rugby World Cup may all have served to drive interest in the sport and, according to a number of drinks firms, it’s never been more popular to watch rugby down the pub.
Tara Karimian, marketing manager at McEwan’s, said sporting events create “a great atmosphere and a fantastic opportunity for pubs and bars to attract regular and new customers”.
The 6 Nations attracts new people to the sport every year.
And rugby can serve particularly well in this regard, according to Karimian, who reckons the opportunity created by live sport is “increased further when our national or local sides are taking part too”.
Michelle Chadwick of Halewood Wines & Spirits, the firm behind Crabbie’s, agreed that sport can set the stage for strong drinks sales and suggested the 6 Nations, which kicks off next month, should provide ample opportunity for pubs to cash in.
“The 6 Nations is attracting new people to the sport and tournament every year, so the growing popularity in addition to a solid and loyal fan base means greater opportunities for licensees,” said Chadwick.
“The more that can be done to maximise customer experience, the more likely people will see their venues as the go-to destination for the rest of the tournament and even better, all things rugby and sport related.”
To make the most of the opportunity provided by live sport, operators must first ensure they’re able to provide an excellent viewing experience, a spokesman for Guinness parent firm Diageo told SLTN.
The drinks giant said there is research to suggest rugby fans consider the viewing experience a primary concern.
“Other elements are important but secondary to the viewing quality,” said the spokesman.
“Making sure you have clear lines of sight to screens and keeping the paths to the bar clear is essential to keep viewing at its best.”
Consistency is also key, according to the Diageo spokesman, and he advised that licensees should ensure they show all 6 Nations matches.
“Licensees should make the most out of the days where there are two matches by turning the day into a package deal for consumers,” he added.
“By creating an experience that lasts longer than just one game, and tying in price promotions, meal deals or free snacks for rugby fans – pubs can create a more engaging environment and encourage dwell time.”
Wendy Espie, senior brand manager for Tennent’s-owned ale brand Caledonia Best, also offered advice on how operators should approach live rugby in their venue.
Espie said operators should “cover the basics” by promoting fixtures ahead of time, ensure they have a good range of drinks on offer, stock up on best-sellers, and rota in sufficient staff levels.
Andrew Turner of Heineken agreed that getting the basics right is crucial to creating the perfect conditions for a successful match day at the tills.
He advised operators to ensure they are stocked up on “the biggest brands” and suggested encouraging staff “to recommend premium brands to customers who
may be interested in trading up”.
Offering table service or pre-sales to big groups may also be advisable, Turner suggested, “as this can reduce queuing time at the bar”.
Karimian of McEwan’s echoed Turner on the importance of planning ahead, suggesting operators get their orders in early and make sure any special offers “are publicised in advance”.
“Think about tying in a beer and food offer that will satisfy their appetite but not break their bank,” said Karimian.
“A jumbo sausage roll or large homemade scotch egg, half price, with every pint at half time, for example, could drive wet sales and also give you a chance for people to sample some of your menu.”
Getting the word out is vital and there’s more than one way to do it. Karimian suggested operators update blackboards with all match dates and times, add events to the venue’s social media pages and website, and tell regulars what’s coming up whenever they visit the bar.
And if an operator should choose to go above and beyond the normal on match day, Karimian suggests they consider seeking out some media support.
“If you think your rugby coverage or events are a little different to what other pubs near you are doing, perhaps you’re tying in a charity event to your tournament coverage, then get in touch with your local media too and invite them along,” said Karimian.
“Essentially do everything you can to make sure everyone knows what’s going on – the more people you tell, the more you’ll get through the door.”