After the year we’ve just had many operators will no doubt be actively looking for opportunities to drive customers back through their doors. Last summer we had ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ and whether you loved it or hated it, it certainly drove footfall into many venues. This summer, we have sport- and lots of it.

Watching sports in a pub or bar has long been a popular pastime among Brits and despite the lingering fear of the pandemic that’s not likely to change. According to our new research, in partnership with our friends at MatchPint, we expect sport to play a significant role in getting many customers back into venues. (It’s obviously not relevant for all venues, far from it.)

(You can access the full research for free here.)

6.9 million will watch the Euros in a pub/bar

Football, as always, reigns supreme, with 59% of UK adults intending to watch the final weekend of the Premier League; 12% of them intend to watch a match in a pub or bar. And there’s another big football event this year (so I’m told!) which gives sports fans additional reasons to visit pubs and bars- 56% of UK adults intend to watch the postponed UEFA European Football Championships, with 6.9 million (13% UK adults) intending to watch at least one match in a pub or bar.

Despite the Olympics being less of a traditional sporting event to watch in a pub or bar, it still offers an opportunity. 73% of the UK adult population intend to watch some of the Olympics- 9% intend to watch some of it in a pub or bar – that’s 4.7m people looking for a suitable venue!

Sports fans are excited to be back in pubs

We’ve been getting accustomed to spending our ‘entertainment’ time at home over the last 12 months. However, one of the things that people have found most difficult to replicate is the atmosphere for a ‘night out’. It’s this unique combination of environment and ambiance that makes the pub so special. When you throw live sport into this mix, and ‘big occasion’ live sport for that matter, you really hit the sweet spot. The fact that nearly 1 in 2 say that ‘watching sports’ is what they’re looking forward to THE MOST about returning to pubs this summer, shows the power sport has to bring people together.

Publicans see the value in showing sports

The new whitepaper from KAM Media and MatchPint includes feedback from 618 sports fans and 214 pub operators and found that publicans are backing sports to bring them success this summer.

Pubs which already showed sports pre-pandemic are looking to really maximise the summer of sport by showing all the main events; 89% will show the Euros, 83% will show the UEFA Champions League Final, 75% will show the Lions rugby tour and 73% intend to show at least some events during the Olympic games.

Publicans are looking at these sporting events as key pillars of their summer revenue. With 41% saying they believe that the UEFA European Championships will be the most profitable event this summer for pubs.

“Live sport has proved an effective sales driver for decades in the hospitality sector. Whether you were operating a sports bar, showcasing major events, or simply keeping the TVs on in the background before the pandemic, this research makes one thing clear: once the initial honeymoon period of a post-pandemic consumer rush back into pubs and bars dies down, live sport is a standout opportunity for pubs and bars to continue driving sales this summer.” Dom Collingwood, Co-founder, MatchPint.

Pubs need to get their offer and comms right

Pubs must consider how to cater for larger groups, with easy and quick ordering, table service and sharing platters. Enabling reservations will be key and give customers the opportunity to pre-order food as well as drinks (e.g. beer buckets for the table, etc.) in order to maximise the commercial opportunity.

If you’re showing the big sporting events, then make sure you shout about it. An a-board outside your door is a start but make sure you’re really utilising all your social channels and giving people plenty of time to plan as well as sharing last minute reminders. Carefully crafted and personalised email campaigns will be key- maybe give your customers the ability to “opt out” of sporting comms if you haven’t already got a “sports fans” list. Apps such as MatchPint are gaining popularity and really help sport fans easily find you as well as getting your venue to the top of local google searches.

Don’t miss out on ‘sport at home’

The research also flags the opportunity for operators to take advantage of ‘sport at home’ by offering take-aways and ‘at-home hospitality’ options.

Our recent research, in partnership with Slerp, found that 7.9 million adults intend to have friends over to their home this summer specifically to watch sport. Operators who offer any “dine at home” kits, food delivery, take-away kegs or take-out services should make sure their marketing campaigns align with these sporting events. We expect a huge amount of ‘entertaining at home’ this summer and many will be open to ordering from pubs and restaurants if we continue to remind them of what’s available and relevant.

For the right venue type and location, maximising your footfall and sales via these major sporting events can be a critical part of attracting customers back through the doors this summer. Best of luck.

You can access the full research for free here.