Leverage These 3 Sports for Growth
by David Klemt
Sports receive more than three million mentions daily on social media and in online communities, and three sports are driving conversations.
Media-monitoring and SaaS platform Meltwater‘s recent report shows growth in media mentions and community engagement. The report, “2023 Industry Snapshot: Sports,” also identifies three sports that are growing globally.
Most restaurant and bar concepts, at least throughout North America, can benefit from sports. They have televisions, at least decent audio, and the proper licenses to air sports and other programs.
At the risk of oversimplifying, that means that any bar or restaurant can be a sports bar. Before anyone begins furiously hammering out an email to send me, I’m not saying any bar or restaurant can automatically become a great sports bar because they have TVs. I’m simply saying that operators who want to leverage sports and specific sporting events are at a good starting point to do so.
With that caveat out of the way, let’s check out what Meltwater has uncovered regarding sports.
According to Meltwater, sports is a hot topic every day of the year. On average, there are 3.16 millions mentions of sports each day.
And that’s just on a “normal” day. Last year, that number jumped to well over 12 million mentions during the FIFA World Cup.
Meltwater identifies 2022 as a particularly strong year in terms of growth for sports conversations. That boost is expected to carry into 2023, providing savvy operators with opportunities to leverage sports.
Per Meltwater, sports social media handles, hashtags, and keywords have grown by more than 20 percent. That’s significant growth.
Now, let’s look at the sports driving much of that growth.
When I say “football” in this context, I mean the sport some people call “soccer.” So, not American football, which Dave Grohl and Crown Royal pointed out is a Canadian invention during Super Bowl LVII.
For the past few decades (at least), much has been made of Americans maligning football (soccer). Well, all the tropes of that mockery may be wearing very thin.
Last year, mentions of football keywords were up 56 percent—in the US. The second-place country was Nigeria with an increase of 33 percent.
Globally, the sport’s online conversations went up by 32 percent. The day of the FIFA World Cup final? That number exploded to 630 percent. Could be smart for operators to begin planning their World Cup promotions soon.
There are some interesting stats surrounding baseball and online conversations.
Last year, conversations of this sport grew by just three percent. And for a country that claims the sport as their national pastime, American baseball convos saw a notable dropoff: a decrease of 11 percent.
However, baseball grew by nine percent in Canada in 2022. Japan saw an increase of 36 percent, and Venezuela was up 22 percent.
Unsurprisingly, the sport’s two largest organizations dominate baseball conversations.
Leading the charge, Major League Baseball mentions grew by 16 percent in 2022 globally, and by 54 percent in Japan. Right on MLB’s heels, Nippon Professional Baseball 23 percent globally and 28 percent in the US.
For those who are curious, three teams stood out in the baseball conversation: the Los Angeles Dodgers (+59 percent), New York Yankees (+55 percent), and NY Mets (+46 percent). However, LA Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani saw truly incredible growth with an increase of 74 percent.
An important takeaway: Baseball fans in America appear quite interested in watching (or listening to) NPB. That gives operators another organization—and all their scheduled games—to leverage.
Ah, my favorite sport. I’m happy (for the most part) to see this motorsport growing around the world. In fact, Formula 1 keyword mentions grew 13 percent globally, and #F1 was among the hashtags used most in 2022.
On July 3, 2022, Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, Jr. (driver #55) won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (#11) took second and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (#44) took third. And on this day the F1 conversation skyrocketed, growing by 338 percent.
The country leading the way for F1-related keyword mentions in 2022 was Japan, growing by a staggering 91 percent.
Much of the increase in interest in F1 can be traced back to Netflix and its Drive to Survive docu-series (some call it a reality-TV drama).
Looking at American interest in the sport, it helps that there are now three races on the calendar that take place in the US: the Miami Grand Prix, the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX, and the Las Vegas Grand Prix. That’s three opportunities (Miami has already happened) for American operators to take advantage of this sport’s growing popularity.
Last year, former Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel ($5), Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (current champion and #1), and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc (#16) saw the most growth in terms of individual drivers.
I can only hope that my other favorite motorsport, MotoGP, starts to become more popular throughout North America.
Some operators may find that sports don’t work for their concept, such as a high-end cocktail bar or fine-dining restaurant. Those are two venue types that tend to eschew televisions as they don’t work with their vibe and aesthetic.
That said, each operator must choose how to best implement sports and related promotions. This includes understanding which sports, teams, and players their guests like. Then, of course, it’s also a matter of gauging interest.
With that determined, operators must also decide how to make sports work with their concept. Some things to consider are themed F&B menus, sports-related LTOs, FoH uniforms, and how far to go with promotions. That latter consideration will depend on how rabid a fan base each operator is targeting. A truly dedicated fan base encourages some bars to “officially” support a certain team.
Another important consideration? Will leveraging a particular sport or team alienate other guests due to rivalries or a lack of interest or comfort? Sometimes the cost of implementing promotions includes pushing away a percentage of guests on particular days.
Because I live in Las Vegas, I have an array of venues available to me around the clock. It’s conceivable that I could find a home bar or restaurant to watch F1 and MotoGP. Personally, the capability of comfortably watching my two favorite sports would boost my loyalty and visits. However, there may not be a large pool of people like me in this market. Would a bartender want to turn on an F1 race just for me?
There’s a lot to consider when choosing how to best leverage sports. The upsides include converting customers to loyal, repeat guests; a realistic idea of what to consider in terms of labor and inventory for specific days, weeks, months, and seasons; and boosts in traffic, revenue, and online engagement (which in turn can translate to more traffic and revenue).