Olympic Bar Promotions Heat Up

Mike Jannusch, owner of Sedgwick’s Bar & Grill, can attest to the fact that planning a promotion takes a long time. For the past few Olympics, the bar has hosted its own version of The Games — the “Olympwick’s.” It’s certainly a fun idea — and arguably costs less than the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia — but it wasn’t without trial and error.

“I spent more time on this than I do most things,” Jannusch explains. That’s because Sedgwick’s is planning more than seven events for the third annual bar Olympics to be hosted over two weeks from February 9 to 23.” 

Those events include: the Alpine Challenge where contestants have to eat their way through Sedgwick’s Tater Tot Mountain; the Ice Luge Competition has contestants drinking signature shots down an icy shot slope; the Stacked Ski Jump has competitors applying their beer pong skills to battle it out to shot, sip and stack their three glasses first; and Figure Painting has teams drawing the Olympic rings blindfolded, which will be judged “like figure skating,” he says. The winning team receives a gold trophy and a complimentary happy hour at Sedgwick’s.

Olympwick's 2014

It’s coming up with these fun albeit silly events that motivates the team to promote an event that often generates more buzz than revenue. However, in order to keep people interested after three different iterations of the Olympwick’s, Jannusch has tweaked the formula. The first few times, the games were focused more on consumption, but now Jannusch steers away from that, which attracts a wider range of people to participate.

Indeed, flexibility is important to the success of Olympwick’s. “If something is not working, I want to move on to do something else, so we’re not regimenting the schedule,” he says. If something works on the first night, I may want to do it all five nights.

“Our goal is to come up with things that are fun to participate in, fun to watch and a little competitive too,” he adds. “We’re looking for more people to have a good time as they’re watching the Olympics.”

While other bar owners may be reluctant to host an event that comes around every two years, Jannusch says it’s a “natural tie-in” for Sedgwick’s and hosting it every two years prevents overkill. Yet, he has to keep the promotion fresh in people’s mind, so Jannusch “gets the word out early” and reaches out to regulars.

In fact, this Olympics promotion may be more important to Sedgwick’s than ones in the past. The frigid Chicago weather during the polar vortex has caused business to slow, so it’s up to Jannusch to entice patrons with a fun alternative to the cold. “You want to keep pounding it in [to the guests],” he says. “People love the idea, but you have to make sure they love it enough to act on it and participate.”


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