March Madness is a huge opportunity for bars and restaurants to seize every year. With several games on almost daily, owners and managers can leverage the madness with promotions and deals for dine-in or take-out customers alike. That said, what are some of the routes to take? We’ve got you covered with some March Madness promotion ideas to use to make your NCAA tourney season a slam dunk (sorry, we know).
Let’s start with the most traditional route – the NCAA March Madness Bracket. Brackets can be a relatively low impact/most bang for your buck option for a promotion. You can go with one big prize for the overall bracket winner, prizes for winners of each round of the tournament, or even mix in discounts for anyone who even chooses a single game correctly to incentivize playing throughout the month and active participation.
Next, we have Squares. Similar to how people run their NFL squares, you’d set it up for the NCAA. Just take the last digit of what you think the final score of each team will be and add them together. If you have that square and it matches those two numbers added together you win. While this route is tough to incentivize on multiple levels, it is familiar to most sports fans and that familiarity can go a very long way.
3. The Oscars
From here it all gets less traditional, but the possibilities are still just as endless. Try a reverse promotion. Maybe your bar is slightly more upscale and isn’t catering towards sports fans or maybe it has a much higher ratio of non-sports fans to sports fans. Consider a promotion geared towards the non-sports fans but playfully acknowledging March Madness. Maybe something based on the Oscars/award season (The Oscars Air March 4th, btw). Granted it airs nine days prior to the beginning of March Madness, you could use The Oscars as a fun opportunity for something more.
4. Thematic Menu Items
Themed menu items are a safe bet this time of year. Make several options of shots or mixed drinks fans can order to show support for their teams. Maybe you use this as an opportunity to test out new flavors of wings and have guests vote (in bracket form) for which ones they’d like to see on the permanent menu. Or you could go a broader route and do basketball Jell-O shots (halve oranges and fill with orange Jell-O & pipe on basketball lines) for a high margin/low cost option that everyone can enjoy to get in the spirit.
5. Eat-In & Carry-Out Deals
Another move with great potential is running Eat-In or Carry-Out deals during the games. You could extend your happy hour to fit the hours the games are played (or leading up to them/after them). Home team lose a big game? Try a beer special like running $2 PBRs until close. What about if they win? Maybe everyone there in a jersey or hat gets a free house beer or wine. How about making that a theme. Notre Dame wins? Half off Guinness! So what about your restaurant that does far more carry-out than eat-in? Promote a game night platter or appetizer combo. Ideally they will order the combo (that they can only get on a game day), come in and have a beer while they wait.
6. Team Up
Have some local friends that also own or run restaurants? Team up with them. Come up with a special that each place runs for the whole tournament and encourage patrons to visit all of the locations and vote on their favorite dishes (think the Elite 8 or Final 4). Pick a winner for each round until the final two restaurant’s dishes remain and host a big party/event to choose the winner (think Bobby Flay’s Throwdown in a way). Potentially keep track of who has voted in previous rounds and give them a deal or freebie for each additional round they participate in.
7. Social Media
Social Media. Try creating a unique hash tag (#MarchRadness, for example) or giving guests a deal if they check-in or share your location on their social media. Have them tag your accounts/take advantage of a hashtag you created to monitor how your promotion is going. Maybe add a little extra incentive by saying that five people who post and use the hashtag will get their meals comped or a free round of drinks/giftcard.