Why Pubs Should Sponsor Local Sports Teams

The Globe in Landore, Swansea, is a community pub but this particular community is sports-mad. So it's no surprise that licensee Christine Bray decided to go with the flow. This enterprising publican sponsors no fewer than nine sports teams - four football teams, three darts teams (two ladies', one men's), a pool team and a snooker team. All of the Globe's sponsored teams play in their local leagues, which of course helps bring visitors back into the pub for home games. The non-football sponsorships also help to spread the business over the whole week.

For The Globe, these sponsorships serve as one of the foundations of the business. "Sponsorships are very important in terms of revenue and atmosphere. Despite the fact that, in common with most publicans, Bray says it's impossible to put a precise number on the contribution that her multiple sponsorships make to the bottom line, she certainly wouldn't be without them.

"It's not all down to monetary gains because it's like one big happy family," she enthuses. "They're never any trouble and they still come in if the game's cancelled." It's a similar story for Colin Murphy, a publican with 20 years' experience whose four football teams help fill his two premises in suburban Dundee - Balgay Hill Bar and Hawkhill Tavern. "The pubs rely on sports sponsorships. "They are very important for the bottom line and for turnover because the teams spend a lot of money over the years."

Meanwhile, five minutes' walk down the road there's Irish pub Clancy's, which supports the University of Dundee's hurling team. Below a sign on the window proudly announcing this fact, there's a line inviting other teams to come in and apply for sponsorship.

This willingness to throw money at sports organisations marks a huge change from a few years ago, when they generally went cap in hand to ask publicans to donate a few prizes once a year. More recently, publicans have come to appreciate the strong mutual benefit.

Bigger pub chains such as JD Wetherspoon are certainly alert to the potential returns for relatively little outlay. Management follows a policy of encouraging sponsorships that are relevant to the local area, says spokesman Eddie Gershon.

And these days some local sports clubs are well aware of their rising value. Wetherspoon’s The Francis Newton in Sheffield, had to pay £1,000 to get the pub's name on the kit of the local women's hockey team for the a season, but they would have had to fork out around £5,000 to move up a notch in the club's league table of sponsors. Like most other pubs, they also provides discounted food after matches. Obviously, the purpose of the sponsorship is to advertise The Francis Newton and cement it in the local community's hearts and minds, but it's also to combat the pub's off-centre location. "We're not on the main loop and we need to spread the net", they explain.

 

THE RIGHT RESULTS

Publicans may be looking for teams to sponsor but, like Wetherspoons in Sheffield, they also demand results. The King's Head in Holt, Norfolk, supports Holt United football club. "They drank here on a regular basis and they wanted £600 for new kit," explains licensee Adam Chapman. "However, before we renew it, we'd need to see a measureable increase in trade." In the meantime, two non-sponsored local clubs - one rugby, one hockey - have adopted the King's Head, bringing guests and supporters on Thursdays, and they may end up competing with Holt United for the pub's limited sponsorship budget.

In Dundee, Murphy also points out the value of laying down the line before making any financial commitment. He stipulates that club members return to the pub after every match and that they stage certain fundraisers and other nights there - typically four or five a season. It's apparent that some sports give more bang for the sponsorship buck. Because of pitch fees, outdoor team sports such as football and rugby can be expensive - up to £1,500 a season for use of the pitch on top of £400-£600 for kit every few years. "You've got to watch pitch fees closely," warns Murphy, who supports three amateur football sides and a five-a-side team.

Darts and pool, by contrast, come relatively cheap. The Globe's Bray pays around £70 per team for registration fees in the local competition. Also, both sports are played within the pub's premises, helping to boost the bar take.

It's not enough to merely throw money at a team. To get the best results, sponsorships have to be managed and publicans must be prepared to get involved.

Five years ago Paul Perry, manager of Punch-owned Colliers Arms in Walsall, west Midlands, established the Colliers Arms amateur football club and now runs it on a budget of £200-£500 a season, pitch fees of some £1,500, plus a round or two of post-match sandwiches. But he doesn't stop there - Perry also grabs a flag and runs the line.

"It's important to give something back," he says. "The return's not massive and it's very difficult to ascertain anyway, but I get a lot of benefits in other ways."

This chimes with Murphy's view, that successful sponsorships are built on relationships. He not only played for one of his most supportive teams, he also managed them. And when he left one pub and took over another just up the road, the entire team moved with him. "You have to build up an affection with these teams," he says. "If you don't, a sponsorship will just fade away."

FOUR WAYS SPORTS SPONSORSHIP HELPS PUBS

1 They attract a reliable clientele on specific days, generating the kind of atmosphere that attracts others for relatively little cost

2 They widen a pub's catchment area because, as publicans point out, most members of a sponsored club as well as their opponents live and work outside the pub's range

3 They help showcase the pub or bar in ways that wouldn't otherwise have happened

4 They introduce a new customer dynamic in the smoke-free, food-era.