By Joseph Brady, Senior Director of Digital Marketing, Reliant Funding
While the professionals all have an off-season, sports-themed restaurants and bars don’t have that same luxury. Bringing in cash flow year-round is not an easy task, but influencer marketing could be the key ingredient to help sports bar operators and owners beat event the slowest nights.
At its core, successful sports bar marketing is all about reaching your audience through the right medium and creating a curiosity or awe factor. Influencer marketing is the new age amalgamation of celebrity endorsement with a content-driven marketing strategy which works best for the Millennial audience. It grabbed the spotlight in 2018 and we expect it to become more central to marketing efforts over the next few years.
Here are a few tips in the influencer marketing front that can boost the popularity and customers of your sports bar.
Focus on Your Local Audience
The first step in an influencer marketing campaign is figuring out who the right influencers for you are. Focus on the local crowd who are most likely to drop by in your bar. Start by looking at local sports media personalities, fan blogs, fan social media accounts, alumni groups, and podcasts covering your local college(s) and professional teams. They’re likely to have followers outside your current guest list who are still local to you. But don’t be afraid to look at local restaurant and entertainment influencers in your area, too. Anyone who talks to your target demographics is a potential partner.
In general, you’ll want to make sure they have a large following in your city or town, although that number can be lower if their audience is niche and can help you increase your ROI.
Zero on the Platform
You can find influencers on any platform but make sure that the platform right for your goals. It doesn’t make sense to hire an influencer from the blogging or Youtube space while your sports bar might work best on Instagram. A lot of money can go wasted if you do not research and find the best social/digital platform best suited for you.
A lot of this comes down to what your campaign goals are. If it’s just to get more social media followers, you’ll probably want to just deal with influencers with a large audience on the same platforms you use. If it’s to promote a special event, special, or to spread brand awareness, this opens the doors to which platforms to choose from.
Similarly, if an opportunity presents itself, do not miss to cross-sell. Some influencers might be popular on multiple platforms. If they accept to share your brand in these platforms for no or lower cost, it is good even if that platform is not what you had in mind for your sports bar.
Vouch on Giveaways & Contests
Who does not like to win discounts or free drinks in a sports bar? Initiate contests or giveaways through your influencers to notch up the fun quotient.
And get a more adventurous with the contests rather than falling for the usual “Follow this profile to get 20% off” strategy. Use sports quiz or “Guess the Athlete” contest styles to bring out the competitiveness in your target audience. When people feel challenged, they tend to share it more, increasing your chances of making the content viral.
Trust Your Influencers
Trust your influencers on what they are proposing. You’ll be playing on their home field, so they know how to connect to their audience better than you. Include them in all the related campaign meetings and bounce ideas off of them instead of just giving them content to share. Not only will this help ensure a better product, but your influencers are more likely to feel an affinity towards your brand if they’re included in the process.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t have the final say on things. At the end of the day, this is your sports bar marketing campaign and you should be happy with the planning and execution. So, make sure you’ve done in-depth research on the influencers you’re hiring before forking over money.
Don’t Forget Non-Sports Fans
This might sound counterintuitive but let’s face it – it’s hard to run a sports bar for only sports lovers. Appealing to people who don’t love sports is equally important to keep your cash coming throughout the year. But they need a reason to come enjoy your bar even if they’re not into sports.
Influencer marketing can help you pull in those non-sports fan segment of potential guests. Choose some influencers who don’t cater to sports and hire them promote your restaurant for the food, drink, and ambiance you provide. Show people that your sports bar is an amazing place to hang out with friends – be it for some low-key board or video game nights, or to enjoy a couple of drinks after work.
Game nights or not, giving non-sports fans a reason to visit you is way your tables will be filled every night.
Ensure Long-term Influencer Relationship
Finding influencers that suit your business is not easy. Consider them as the brand ambassador for your sports bar and treat them like one.
First, make sure they believe in your brand and your values. Half-hearted influencer marketing is a bad social fail you don’t want to experience. Ensure that your influencers are aligned with everything you and your business wants to achieve and stand for.
If a campaign is over and you don’t need the influencer in near future, it doesn’t mean you end the relationship with them. Treat your influencers like privileged customers of your business and make sure they always love and trust your brand. This can take you a long way in the influencer marketing journey.
About the Author
Joseph Brady is Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Reliant Funding, a provider of short-term working capital to small and mid-sized businesses nationwide. He has more than 14 years of experience in B2B digital marketing, optimization and operations, with a focus in the financial services market.