March Madness – Sports Marketing Lessons


Torie LynchBy Torie Lynch, Vice President of Marketing and Brand Initiatives, Tilted Kilt

Making the most of major sporting events is more of an art form than an exact science for restaurant owners. It’s actually easier than you would think to optimize your restaurant and marketing strategies to get the most out of the celebrations around this cultural phenomenon. Major sporting events can be used to promote brand awareness for patrons that may not have ever been to your business – a chance to capture new regular visitors.

Square One: Atmosphere and Set-Up

Obviously, the first step in attracting visitors to your establishment is ensuring it’s an appropriate environment for cheering on teams. You’ve got all your TVs tuned in to the game, but accommodating larger groups can make seating and security a little more complex.

There isn’t really a particular science to the strategy of handling the large numbers of people; the main key is to be properly staffed with added servers, bartenders and security. Fans can be very passionate on game day – sometimes too passionate – so having plenty of security and managers on call are essential.

Alcohol usually fuels rivalries within a restaurant so it is important for the entire staff, not just bartenders, to be properly trained on alcohol service. Having a manager on the floor at all times is very important because they can help identify and defuse potential issues. Another good tip is to make sure everyone who is consuming alcoholic beverages is also eating to keep stomachs full and tempers down. Consider taking reservations for big parties, seating them in sections according to the team they’re rooting for or the game they’re watching. Not only will they be sure to get a good view of the game they came to see, but it can keep inter-party issues to a minimum.

Marketing and Promotions

Of course depending on your presence in the area, you’ll require a unique mix of advertising, public relations and social media, in addition to in-store promotions and giveaways to reach a level of engagement with your visitors.

Social media

Through both organic posting and advertising opportunities, social media is a powerful tool for small business owners at the local and national level to promote specials. You’re able to target specific geographic locations with advertising, and you can post the details specific to each of your locations that people can share with friends. Advertising unique specials for followers only is a great way to not only get new followers, but entice people to drop by for the games.

Raffles, In-store promos

Tilted Kilt regularly runs promotions that include new menu items, specials and uniforms for the Kilt Girls, which let the staff to be interactive with guests and provide special value for these special occasions. For example, several pubs hosted special giveaways along with the March Plaidness promotion, raffling off jerseys and other big-ticket items. Offering drink specials when a specific player does well, or when a team reaches a certain benchmark or is winning keeps the pub involved and engaged with the patrons and keeps game watching fun.

About the Author: Torie Lynch is the Vice President of Marketing and Brand Initiatives at Tilted Kilt, where “A Cold Beer Never Looked Good.” ®Tilted Kilt has more than 100 units in operation throughout the United States and Canada. 

Leave a Comment