Shooting for Profits

The Tavern DowntownWhen it comes to sports, everything is cyclical, meaning you don’t have to wait long for the next sporting season in order to start planning promotions. The Tavern Hospitality Group, with six locations in the Denver area, is rolling right into March Madness college basketball tournament by pulling out all the stops with an online bracket promotion with big prizes for participants.

The winner from each establishment will win a $300 voucher from Frontier Airlines, while the overall winner wins a three-day, two-night trip for two to Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, including airfare. This year, The Tavern is paying for the trip, with the hopes of lining up a sponsor for next year's promotion.

“We were trying to figure out a way to engage the consumer to come in and watch sports,” Owner Frank Schultz says. This is all part of The Tavern’s larger goal of building the brand by involving and interacting with customers on a daily basis. The Tavern motto, it seems, is big risks equal big profits (so long as the risks are calculated properly).

Approaching this year's March Madness opportunity, Schulz initially wavered about how to create a unique and profitable promotion. Paper brackets, he said, were too inefficient, as well as ineffective because there's not enough opportunity for patrons to submit the brackets from the time Selection Sunday happens to when the first games start a few days later. For Schultz, this wasn’t practical.

Instead, he worked with The Tavern's IT expert to create a bracket database specifically for The Tavern Hospitality Group’s website. Beginning this past Monday, code cards were handed out in all check presenters. After March 13, customers can log on to the Tavern’s website, type in their code and create their bracket. (The code cards are used so that a person can fill out only one bracket, keeping things fair.)

The Tavern DowntownSchultz and his team started planning this promotion in early December, and with a little less than a month until the actual tournament begins, Schultz and his team are already working on a full-scale marketing outreach through radio ads, their own in-store ad system, e-blasts and through Facebook and Twitter. Staff, too, will be wearing March Madness T-shirts with the specials listed on the back, which include a 16’’ two topping large pizza for $10 during the Sweet 16; 13 wings for $8 for the Elite 8; four classic sliders for $4 for the Final 4; and $3 Bud and Bud Light drafts and $4 Three Olives Vodka for the Championship game.

The motivation for all this marketing hoopla is to ensure the monetary risk pays off. Creating a bracket database and handing out prizes like a trip to Vegas or a voucher to Frontier Airlines all on his own dime is a large investment, but Schultz sees it as one with slam-dunk future benefits for his business.

“I’ve invested a lot in infrastructure and won’t make money back on it this year. But this database we put together we’ll use every year, it’ll build every year, and more sponsors will be engaged and the prizes will get bigger each year,” Schultz says.

By building a strong and loyal network in Colorado, The Tavern's March Madness promo will encourage basketball fans and basketball novices alike to fill out brackets, making everyone feel like a winner, no matter what the outcome.

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