Big marketers often develop multi-million dollar deals with individual athletes to promote products and brand names, often entering into huge advertising agreements where a stadium will be named after them or their brand will appear on a racecar.
But how can small, independent bars and restaurants see real business benefits from sports sponsorship?
The key is scaling the concept down to the local level and handling it both creatively and strategically. Your establishment can sponsor one or more local sports teams as a branding and marketing investment:
- Your restaurant’s name or logo on customized branded T-Shirts for the team
- Your contact information on signs at the field
- Display ads on the team’s website
- Announcements and giveaways during the games
There are lots of possibilities, but you need to be concerned about ROI too. What true business benefits can your restaurant gain from team sponsorship? And what can you do to give yourself the best chance of success?
Local sports team sponsorship as an advertising alternative
Advertising is not as simple and straightforward as it used to be. Options that used to be the go-to strategy for local businesses simply don’t work like they used to, primarily because those resources are disappearing in favor of digital avenues that are much more in the consumer’s control.
But sponsoring a local sports team provides restaurants and bars with a real-world advertising option that can pay for itself over and over again. Rather than paying to place an ad somewhere that the audience has trained itself to ignore, sponsorship offers highly visible “ads” in a setting where the audience has paid to watch and pay attention.
From signs around the field to custom team uniforms with your restaurant’s brand, logo, or marketing message, your name is delivered repeatedly to fans who appreciate your company’s role in supporting local teams.
This is a unique – and highly effective – form of advertising that lasts all season long!
Entice more people to your restaurant
But you can also use creativity to take it even further. For example, consider these options that can greatly enhance the value of your sponsorship investment:
- Working with your local beverage distributors to develop weekly or monthly specials designed around game days and advertising them at the games
- Purchasing a supply of equipment, uniforms, hats, and other memorabilia that dedicated fans of the team would love to have, and using them as prizes for in-store contests and raffles
- Arranging with the team to come to the restaurant after each game for a “meet-and-greet” session with fans, along with food and drink specials
Any method that can extend your sponsorship from the game directly to filling seats is going to mean direct sales and profit in return for your marketing investment. So think creatively and consider what you can do to encourage the team themselves, along with staff and fans, to visit the bar regularly as part of your agreement.
In exchange for the higher number of customers you can expect to serve each game day, discounted prices or free items from the menu will likely pay for themselves many times over.
Multiply the effects of your sponsorship investment
Once you succeed at getting more people to your bar as a direct result of your sponsorship efforts, you can take it a step farther by capitalizing on these customers’ arrival. Here are some ideas to try:
- Make it fun, easy, and valuable to every customer to engage with your brand digitally:
- Offer specials and the chance to win prizes for signing up to your email list
- Encourage customers to take pictures and share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Run social media picture contests, menu polls, and other fun interactive activities that will keep customers engaged during and after their initial visit
- Create and maintain a loyalty program that rewards repeat business and/or referring new customers
- Ask customers what they would love to do/see/hear at the restaurant when they come and make an effort to give them what they want (from karaoke to trivia, darts to foosball, everyone has a favorite bar game that makes the night out that much more special.)
These are just a few ideas that may work well for you, but no one knows your sports bar and its customers better than you do. The real conclusion is simply this: Sponsoring a local sports team can provide a fantastic return on investment if you handle it creatively and strategically rather than just assuming your name on a hat is going to accomplish anything.
With effort and determination, it can easily be the most effective marketing strategy your bar employs all year long.