Pitchers and catchers are about to report, which means two things – we still have a month and a half left of winter (ugh) and baseball is around the corner (yay!). And that means another prime marketing opportunity for sports bars — fantasy baseball.

We know. When most of us think of fantasy sports, we probably just think of football. But sports bars shouldn’t just limit themselves to the gridiron. Fantasy baseball is also a huge pastime for fans, and operators would be wise to at least look into how they can leverage themselves as the place to be for draft day.

“At no point has any sports bar ever marketed me from a fantasy angle,” said Rob Cressy, founder of Bacon Sports and Cress Media, which specializes in sports content marketing. “It’s such a big opportunity, too. Speak the language of the sports fan. It’s as simple as that. Give opportunities for engagement and then create marketing activations. One way is through fantasy sports like baseball.”

And since Spring Training is basically here, it means sports bars should start their planning and marketing of fantasy baseball offers to guests soon. Here are some tips.

Host Draft Parties

The fantasy draft is really half the fun of being in a fantasy league. The other half is trouncing your friends and rubbing it in their faces.

Offering a place for your guests to come in and run their fantasy baseball draft is a great way of getting people in the door and spending time and money at your establishment.

If you’re looking for a place to start with draft party hosting, the Post Sports Bar & Grill has a pretty solid fantasy draft package for their guests. For $99, their fantasy sports guests get:

  • 3-hour reservation in their dedicated draft room
  • Use of the bar’s electronic draft board
  • Mobile draft application
  • A commish kit (a t-shirt, some drink coupons & bonus swag)
  • A championship kit (champion’s plaque, a champion’s cheesesteak & bonus swag)
  • And a free 2-hour pizza pitcher party for a later date

That’s a great package but these draft offerings need to go deeper than just that. It’s not just about what you offer but the overall experience.

The Post Sports Bar & Grill's fantasy draft part package

The Post Sports Bar & Grill’s fantasy draft part package

“I can drink beer for less than $20 at home and order some pizza,” Cressy said. “If I’m going to pay extra to host a draft at a bar, what is the bar going to do to entice me? What can sports bars do to elevate my experience? Just telling me about a beer special isn’t enough. I need to know the WiFi is going to work. Bars need to treat fantasy players like it’s Cheers.”

Cressy says comfort is key. If you don’t have a dedicated room to draft day, roping off a corner for the drafters works just fine. Likewise, if you don’t have your own electronic draft board, giving your drafters’ access to Chromecast (or the like) from their own device is a fine alternative. You could offer your guests to go old school with an erasable white board. Know your audience.

Your package could also entail party catering and complimentary pitchers of beer. And once they’re in your venue and on your contact lists, you can market other promotional programs to them.

Look at Fantasy Baseball as an Investment

Cressy suggests that sports bars should consider hosting draft parties for free and offering free drinks and apps. The idea is you build equity and the ever-elusive guest loyalty.

“You’re not gonna make a quick dollar from fantasy sports,” Cressy said. “It’s about community building. Hook your guests up. Don’t worry about making money off of the party, but plan how to make money off me three, five, 10x down the road because you treated me so well.”

By showing goodwill with fantasy baseball, it sets you up to score big when fantasy football comes rolling along. It also sets your guests up to want to come back for other big events like March Madness, the Kentucky Derby, etc.

Run Your Own Fantasy League

You could also run your own fantasy leagues. These are best done with as a “salary cap” style league. Each professional player is assigned a dollar amount and team owners in your league choose whoever they want on their team while also working with a limited budget. It means 15 teams could all have the same player, but it also allows for unlimited league sizes, which is great if you’re a sports bar.

The key for this league’s success is the prizing. Sports bars needs to give their guests a reason to join their league. Is there a cash prize at the end? Free beer for a year? Merchandise? Tix to your local team’s home game? What you offer is up to you based on what you can afford and think will entice people to join.

Sports Bars could also run a season long Home Run League or Wins Pool. Regardless, be sure to collect contact info (especially email), so you can send regular updates on who’s leading in the league and let them know about your latest events, specials and promotional offers.

You may even want to look at partnering up with fantasy companies like Fan Duel or Draft Kings to run regular contests.

Offer Discounts/Season-Long Packages to Drafters

Fans enjoying baseball at a sports bar

Consider this a nice up-sell to those who partook in letting you host their fantasy baseball draft. You could also offer them an additional “season ticket” package that gives them extra incentive to keep coming back to your sports bar.

Maybe it’s drink discounts, free appetizer coupons, additional merchandise, etc. Anything and everything you can think of to get people coming back to visit your bar once the games begin and teams start falling out of the running.

You could also use it was a reward program where every player in the league earns points by visiting your location over the course of the season. Those points can then be used to discount next year’s draft party (or maybe even get it free!).

Market it Now

The first MLB Spring Training games start on 2/23, and MLB Opening Day is March 29th, so fantasy baseball is imminent. If you have any plans on leveraging fantasy baseball to boost business, start letting your guests know now. Hang up flyers, post on social media, blast your email list, leave marketing materials on your menus and tables. Get that word out!