The NFL’s internal research found that the UK has a base of 13 million fans American Football fans, around 4 million classed as ‘avid’. Participation at youth level has grown at 15% every year for the past decade. The league is confident that the number of fans in the UK will grow, so much so they’ve invested in even more fixtures being played in London in the upcoming years.

It’s the biggest sport in the US; the super-bowl regularly tops out at well over 100 million American viewers and many more around the world. Over the pond, 18-34-year-olds are the most likely age group to have an interest in the sport, something we see on our shores too. Younger consumers are driving interest in the UK and it’s therefore easy to see that general awareness will continue to grow. More people watched the Super-Bowl in the UK last year than some big Champions League fixtures.

If the statistics haven’t excited you, consider that the average game runs for around 3/4 hours. With all that time needed to watch, there is plenty of need for drinks, food and snacks. In the US, American Football occasions are a key driver of lager volumes and finger foods; 1.3 billion chicken wings are eaten during the Super-Bowl alone. Burgers, hot dogs, nachos, chicken wings and ribs are easy to produce, popular and offer good margins. The 99th season of the NFL will kick off on the 6th of September 2018, with fixtures running right through until the Super-Bowl on the 3rd of February. With the games typically played during Sunday evenings, there is a significant opportunity awaiting licensees to attract customers on what is usually the quietest night of the week.

Preparation

1 - With interest in American Football at its highest for younger consumers, ensure you can be found online. Some studies have shown that as many of 85% of Millennials search for somewhere to go while on the move. Make sure you have a mobile optimised, SEO enriched website and that your business has been added to the Google My Business listings and Google Maps. Social Media is just as important, use it to showcase your offering and produce adverts targeted to local American Football fans.

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2 - 44% of people watching sport in the On-Trade drink lager, so stock up with all the beers you'll need. If you don't already, consider stocking Bud Light. There is a long history of association between Bud Light and the NFL. The American lager is the official beer of the NFL until at least 2022. With younger consumers going out more, yet drinking less – Bud Light offers a happy medium for these consumers. 

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3 -As some fixtures can run quite late into Sunday evening, you’ll want to be sure you’re going to get people in. Promote with in-outlet POS in the build-up to the American Football season and taking bookings to understand how many people you can expect. Informing customers they can book tables for the next game can increase future footfall. You can do this through advertising the option via in-outlet POS or by having staff offer to save them a space for next time while serving drinks during the game. Encouraging bookings in this manner can make sure that you retain regular custom throughout the season.

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4 - American Football games are ideal for increasing food sales. Brief all staff on potential food upsell opportunities, such offering shared plates of wings or doubling up burgers. Offering table service for the games gives people a real treat and can increase sales. The easiest way to do this is to have a member of staff roaming the floor and checking for almost empty glasses, then offering to grab them one for the bar. You can leave a bill and collect payment later, or even equip your staff with money belts.

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5 - MatchPint is an online and mobile service used by thousands of fans to find somewhere to watch sport, designed to take the pain out of finding a venue for customers and to drive footfall for operators. If you search “pubs showing American Football”, MatchPint is the top result making it important you get listed. Take advantage of a special offer from Budweiser for outlets to sign up to MatchPint for just £150.

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6 - Ensure all screens are in full working order and positioned for optimal viewing. Check projectors prior to big events to ensure no last-minute disappointment. CGA data suggests that fans emphasise the quality and availability of screens in venue when making the choice about where to visit. Ensure that your staff are fired up and ready to go, your staff play a core role in setting the atmosphere and energy within your venue. Small things, like having them stick on a football top, can do wonders for setting the tone and showing that your venue is embracing the sport.


Participation at the youth level in the UK has grown at 15% each year for the past decade.


NFL research suggests that there are as many as 4,000,000 fans in the UK classed as 'avid'.


The Superbowl added incremental revenue of £1,130 per pub.

Experience

We often find that during a sports fixtures, customers will limit purchases while the game is in play. Serving draught beer in pitchers and bottled beers in buckets is a great way to increase sales as customers don't have to return to the bar as often, and risk missing a vital bit of the action. Not only that, but it will ensure happier customers as they will be queuing at the bar less. Offering pitchers and beer buckets will also ease pressure on the bar during the busy periods, and helps to add a little bit of theatre to the whole experience.

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Consider utilising a focused drinks list. This list should contain buckets of beer and four-pint pitchers, encouraging guests to share and save while also starting ‘rounds’. Handing a customer this focused menu, complete with your world and craft beer selection, when at the bar immediately turns there attention to choosing one of these drinks, serves that should be ones that make you more margin. Remember, the vast majority of consumers have not chosen their drink by the time they reach your bar or take their seat, giving you the opportunity to move them away from considering a standard lager.

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One of the most common objections we've heard about taking table bookings for games, is the worry that the guests won't turn up, at least not on time. We think the best way to combat this is through pre-booked packages that include the table reservation. For example, you could put together a package for a set price per head that includes a bottle of beer and a burger on arrival - with payment taken in advance, or at least a deposit. People will take this option for the security of getting a seat. You can always note to those booking that they will need to arrive in advance of the game as the food will be served at a particular time. Not only does this increase spend on a table that may have just had a drink, but ensures that they will turn up and that your kitchen has fewer covers to worry about for when it hits peak time.

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A great initiative to encourage customers to return every Sunday is to offer discount cards for use during fixtures. These can either be bought by guests to unlock benefits or given out for free. Likewise, you can collect information on your guests in return for the discount if you desire, perhaps to populate your email marketing list. It's worth bearing in mind that discount cards will cost you margin, so this cost will need to be weighed up against the benefits of increased sales and custom. 

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Key Dates


9-13 Aug: First Preseason Weekend

16-20 Aug: Second Preseason Weekend

23-26 Aug: Third Preseason Weekend

30 Aug: Final Preseason Games

6, 9-10 Sept: Regular Season Opens

14 Oct: NFL London Series

View all fixtures: bbc.uk


 Other guides:  Football Rugby | Tennis  | Grand Prix


We hope that you've found our American Football guide useful. Matthew Clark is here to help you in making this Summer of Sport the best summer yet for your outlet, so if you have any questions, comments or require any extra assistance, get in touch with your account manager or contact us here