The Sports Bar Marketing Playbook (15 Best Kept Secrets)

 In Bar

You’ve got the game on, a winning menu, and an all-star lineup of servers and bartenders. To see fans rush into your place, put these 15 insider sports bar marketing tactics into play.

5 Plays to Overcome Facebook’s New Algorithm

Sports bar marketing on Facebook just got more challenging thanks to a new algorithm. To give people “more opportunities to interact with people they care about,” Facebook said users will see fewer posts from businesses.

Don’t sideline Facebook in your sports bar marketing plan! Today, nearly 7 in 10 American adults are on Facebook. Use these tips to conquer the new algorithm.

1) Go Live

Facebook itself advises businesses to use live videos – stating they get 6x times the interaction as regular videos. During an event (skip to sports bar marketing events #14 and #15), or when an exciting game is on, grab your smartphone and press record. Facebook alerts followers that you’re live – and shows off the action they’re missing.

2) Get Personal to Stay in the Picture

Ok, so Facebook prioritizes posts from people not businesses? Then focus your Facebook sports bar marketing on getting fans posting about your place. Here’s how:

  • Bring in a Local Sports Star: From alumni players to coaches, team mascots to local sports announcers…bring ‘em in. You’ll likely pay an appearance fee, but it’s worth it. Guests will clamor to take pics with the celeb – bringing your sports bar into the conversation on Facebook.
  • Set Up a “Selfie Stadium”: Get creative with your sports bar marketing. Invest in a step and repeat backdrop banner featuring your logo or a large poster of a stadium. Set out props like football helmets, pom-poms, and jerseys (with your logo). Then, invite guests to snap selfies and share with a hashtag like: #TeamYourBarName.

3) Ask Nicely

Users control which businesses appear in their newsfeed. It’s a setting they can change in one click. Incentivize patrons to select your sports bar as a “see first” business. If guests change the setting while they’re with you? Give them a free appetizer. Sports bar marketing that rewards patrons is always a win.

4) Use Facebook Events

Elevate your Facebook sports bar marketing – and bring in more fans – by creating Facebook events for big games and in-venue entertainment. When someone RSVPs, Facebook alerts their nearby friends…for free. Like Facebook posts, you can pay to boost events to nearby sports fans.

5) Social Media Sports Bar Marketing…Beyond Facebook

While Facebook dominates the social media league, don’t forget these underdogs:

  • Instagram: Yes, it’s owned by Facebook. Rumors suggest Facebook’s new algorithm impacts business visibility on Instagram as well. Still, Instagram sports bar marketing delivers a great ROI. Use these 13 Instagram tips for bars to up your game.
  • Snapchat: Targeting your sports bar marketing to millennials? Put Snapchat on your team. Use this Snapchat guide for businesses.
  • Beer-Based Communities: Sports bars and beer go together like LeBron and Cleveland. Put your sports bar marketing on the map. Bring in the coolest craft brews…and fans will follow. Beer lovers use apps like TapHunter, Beer Advocate, and Untappd to alert friends who has the best brews in town.

Game-Winning Sports Bar Marketing: Promotions and Contests

6) Gamify Your Promotions

  • Play by Play Discounts: Use the action of a televised game to power your sports bar marketing. During a football game, offer a discount or special for ten minutes after the home team makes a touchdown.
  • Celebrate a Victory: One bar in Upstate New York near a college basketball stadium treats fans to a free pizza slice if the team wins. It’s sports bar marketing that creates a line out the door after a victory. Even when the team loses, this bar has become a popular post-game spot because of the bar’s team spirit.
  • Trivia on Tap: Servers and bartenders can ask fans a true or false sports trivia question for a chance to score 2-for-1 well drinks or $1 off a craft brew.

7) Buzzworthy Contests

It’s the holy grail of sports bar marketing – a contest so good it becomes an event in itself. Here’s one idea to inspire your next sports bar marketing contest:

  • Half-Court Shot: Set up a mini basketball hoop over your door. Randomly select 4-5 randomly guests to take their best shot from across the room. You could team up with a furniture store, jeweler, or even a car dealership for a prize if someone makes the shot (they’ll benefit from having their name in your sports bar marketing). Or, make the shots easier and give away a free appetizer or $20 gift card to anyone who makes one. Of course, you’ll go live on Facebook during the contest, right?

8) Push Your Promotions…There’s an App For That

It’s time to bench that plastic or paper loyalty card.

When it comes to sports bar marketing, customers are app-happy. In a 2017 study of 28,000 customers, VISA and Bond Brand Loyalty found that 81% of guests return to businesses with a great loyalty program. And 57% of these guests prefer mobile loyalty apps.

That’s good news for you.

When a guest downloads your app, you can send push notifications: timed alerts that appear on the patron’s smartphone. For example, before a big game, send a push notification with a sports bar marketing message like: watch the game with us, enjoy half price appetizers.

Thanks to DIY app makers like AppInstitute, making your own app is easy – and affordable.

Team Spirit That Pays Off

9) Step Up to the Plate: Team Sponsorships

Use sports bar marketing to show you’ve got heart for local teams. From youth little league to adult kickball, sponsoring a sports team is a win-win. Here’s why:

  • Charitable Effort: Getting behind a community cause – like sponsoring an inner city youth baseball team – can win the hearts (and wallets) of your guests. According to the Edelman Good Purpose study, 72% of customers recommend businesses that support causes they care about.
  • Team Headquarters: By showing love for a local team, they’ll return the favor by coming to you after the games. As an added bonus, most adult rec leagues run on weeknights when you need a business boost.
  • Brand Exposure: Many teams name themselves after your sports bar, or at least put your logo on their shirts. That’s instant brand exposure and sports bar marketing for you.

10) Create Your Own Team

As one of your sports bar marketing tactics, set up a street team. Send employees to nearby businesses armed with your sports bar menu. Located near a stadium or arena? They can hit the streets on gameday with coupons. It’s a great way to use sports bar marketing to draw in fans after the game. Be sure your street team sports apparel with your logo!

Stay in the Strike Zone: Targeted Advertising

Most sports bar marketing plans include paid advertising. Make it count and keep your budget in check by directly targeting local sports fans.

11) Show Up Online

When fans are deciding which sports bar to visit? They grab their smartphone and start searching. A 2017 study by the National Restaurant Association discovered that 90% of smartphone users seek restaurant information online when choosing where to go.

As a first step, claim your free Google listing. Then, make room in your sports bar marketing budget for Google AdWords. Here’s how it works…

Let’s say you’re a sports bar in Louisville. You “bid” on keywords that a potential guest would use in a Google search like “Louisville sports bar.” You set the overall budget, so there’s no worries about overspending.

12) Get in the Game…Literally

No matter how small your town, there’s an athletic facility near you. It could be a pro NFL stadium, hockey rink, or an indoor soccer facility. Explore sports bar marketing opportunities like:

  • Program Ads: Even in the smartphone age, diehard fans still grab programs. Put a coupon in the program.
  • Signage: Imagine your sports bar marketing message in front of thousands of fans. Many little league fields sell banner space on fences. Yes, in-stadium signage at a pro or college venue may be pricey, but unlike a highway billboard, you’re only reaching sports fans so it could be a worthwhile investment.
  • Go All Out: Some minor league baseball stadiums are bringing in local sports bars to sell food and beer during the games.

13) Rethink Radio and TV

Don’t neglect traditional mediums like radio and TV in your sports bar marketing plan. To stay competitive, many are going all out to earn your business with deep discounts.

  • Keep It Short: Most local radio and TV stations run 5-second “adlets” for as little as $10 each. It’s enough time to say: Wings, beer, and fun at Touchdown’s Sports Bar on Main Street! Run the adlets before, during, and after games on sports channels.
  • Sponsor or Host a Show: Many radio and TV shows run a pre- or post-game show. Would they host the show at your place? Or, see if you can run your sports bar marketing messages during their show. Some stations even give naming rights like “The Jim’s Sports Bar Post Game Show.”

Sports Bar Marketing Focused on Events

14) Competitive Events

Appeal to every fan’s competitive streak with these sports bar marketing and event ideas.

  • Bar Games Tourney: Flip cup. Darts. Even indoor cornhole. Turn backyard beer games into an epic event. Invite guests to form teams and reward the winners with a gift certificate.
  • Live Trivia Night: To boost midweek business, many bars turn to live trivia…with a twist. Instead of hiring a (pricey) outside trivia host, sports bars are taking a DIY approach with help from Buzztime. Buzztime provides all the trivia questions plus tablets for automatic scoring. Beef O’Bradys in Apollo Beach, Florida, launched a live trivia night using tablets. The results of their event-focused sports bar marketing? Guest traffic grew by 40%; pitcher sales increased by 200%.

For more in-venue ideas to inspire your sports bar marketing, use these 18 best ideas for bar games.

15) Go Beyond the Game

Use clever sports bar marketing tactics to enhance the game watching experience at your venue:

  • Go Big for Big Games: Competition is fierce during big games and events like the Kentucky Derby or the pro football championship. Turn up the heat with sports bar marketing that makes it a real event. Try a hat contest during the derby. For the big football game, offer VIP packages with reserved seating at a premium price.
  • Pre- or Post-Game Tailgates: Fire up the grill…outside. Put banners up and block off a section of your parking lot. You’re now tailgate headquarters. Or, host a pre-game pep rally the night before a big game to fire up fans.
  • Season Opener Celebrations: On opening day for the Reds, Cincinnati shuts down for the famous Findlay parade. Make opening day in pro baseball one of your sports bar marketing tactics – with happy hour food and drink specials all day long.
  • Niche Sport Viewing Events: From golf to soccer, tennis to NASCAR, poll your patrons on sports they follow beyond the “usual suspects.” If you find a dozen serious soccer fans, host a weekly “watch club” as another sports bar marketing strategy.

The best sports bar marketing puts your business on the map – and on the minds of local fans. Have a sports bar marketing tip to share? Tell us in the comments.

Showing 3 comments
  • Kaloyan Dimitrov


    Very nice article. Covering the basics ways to attract more people to your sports bar. Personally, I believe that nowadays if you have good specials (both for drinks and food) for the big games and you combine it with a social media promotion it would be enough to get a decent attention. And the best thing is that this strategy is applicable to every sports bar.

  • Dragos

    Very good coverage of the main methods of promoting a bar, I would personally add social media. What I ean by social media is motivate clients to take selfies in the bar and posting online using hashtags. In order to drive clients to take selfies you can use cool products like beer towers which stimulate them. Personally I like a lot what I saw here :

  • Sam Wilkins

    I like your tip of having food specials as well as drink specials at sports bars. My husband and I like to go out to bars and enjoy getting drink specials. We have noticed as well that it is rare to find a food special. We’ll have to keep looking.

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