Going Mad for March Madness

With the professional football season over, bar owners should be looking ahead to the next sporting events to take advantage of.

Enter: March Madness.

The NCAA’s college basketball tournament begins March 19 and brings with it enrapturing fans who are willing to watch any game, any time of day for weeks. Therefore, in order to get you off on the right foot, here are some helpful hints to make sure you score big.  

Planning The Promo
Prepping for a sports promotion requires ingenuity and time commitment, says Helen Wood, director of marketing for the Denver, Colorado-based Tavern Hospitality Group. March Madness is “one of our top two promotions” and is becoming increasingly important to the brand.

THG has created an online bracket for its patrons. Any time a patron enter one of the Tavern establishments, they get a code card with their bill, which allows them to go to the website, fill out the bracket and with the right mixture of luck and strategy, they could win a trip to Las Vegas.

Having done this promotion for the past three years, Wood says, they really have all the details done - meaning planning and implementing takes less time. “We get things in order a month ahead of time.” However, when THG first introduced the promotion, “we planned several months in advance; it really needs about a three month lead time.”

Finding Sponsors
Sponsors are very important to putting a successful March Madness promotion together.  They help with the cost as it can be expensive without them, Wood says. Sponsors ultimately want to get their names and products in front of guests, so it’s important to give them what they’re looking for.

“One way we entice companies to participate is with our interactive ad systems that we have in our locations,” she explains. “Sponsors can give us videos that we can put on our ad screens. They’re getting this promotion through all of our locations.”

Another easy thing to do, Wood says, is to have drink specials that features the sponsor, if it’s a beer or alcohol company. But most importantly when working with sponsors “you have to give value to the brand,” she says, or they won’t work with you again.

A simple way to start promoting for March Madness and any event for that matter is in-house. Wood says they are constantly promoting events in-house whether they’re using their ad screen systems or table tents. It lets your customers know what is coming up and encourages them to plan on coming into the venue during that time, she continued.  

Social media also helps get the word out.  “It’s a big thing that people can push these days. Facebook is very important and Twitter” states Wood. THG utilizes these online networks for every event marketing campaign they have on their schedule. “It’s very important as far as we’re concerned,” she said. “You need to create a lot of energy and excitement, where people want to be in the midst of.”

She also highlights how important it is to capture emails throughout the year in order to send email blasts to large lists. Even with the rise of social media, direct email reaches your most loyal customers and produces the most results.

March Madness Benefits
“It’s not a one-day event,” Wood says. The tournament “is such a long period of time with so many games going on, you can generate so much business and traffic of people coming in” if you do it right.

The THG promotion has been successful because it’s something unique to guests and it has value. They ensure guests come back during the tournament to watch games by not limiting the number of brackets guests can fill out and by not charging an entry fee.  “The more they come and visit the more chances they have to win” she says. “Then our hope is because they are coming several times, we develop relationships with them” and they come back regardless of the promotion.

Sports-minded guests love this promotion because they get something extra. “When you put something in front of them that is unique and fun, where they can win something, they’re excited about it,” Wood says. Since it has caught on so well “we don’t need to evolve the promotion much.” This leaves time to create new and exciting promotions throughout the rest of the year. 

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