The timing of this year’s FIFA World Cup has broad appeal to sports fans, with 48% of those surveyed saying they are more likely to watch a match in the pub this year because it is being shown during the festive period. Highlighting a big opportunity for operators this winter, the football World Cup is set to increase sales on top of traditional Christmas trade.

The research follows CGA Brandtrack data which showed 7.9 million consumers visited pubs during the 2018 World Cup.  The same data highlights how sales peaked at up to five times the average on match days during the tournament, emphasising the increased opportunity World Cup football presents.

New consumer research commissioned by HEINEKEN UK takes a deep dive into the World Cup and Christmas clash this winter, and the impact on consumer behaviours in the on-trade. Some 38% of those surveyed said they will spend more money on alcohol at the pub during a World Cup football match. This is compared to 27% who said they would spend more at a Christmas gathering.  

Publicans can expect lager brands to be their top sellers during matches, as 56% said they are more likely to buy lager during a World Cup football game.Younger drinkers are some of the biggest sports fans, with 100% of the 18–25-year-olds asked having watched a football match in a pub or bar. The recent research also reports that 27% are likely to buy more drinks during the football World Cup versus a normal trip to the pub, jumping to 50% for 18-25-year-olds. Publicans should ensure their cellars are stocked with the right brands to capitalise on this opportunity. Although younger drinkers will often have their favourite brands, they are open to trying something new.

A separate report on beer trends carried out by HEINEKEN UK earlier this year (Heineken® Beer Report) highlights that over half (55%) sampled a new beer in the last three months of 2021 alone. 26% of 18-34-year-olds are seeking lighter tasting lagers and a further 49% desire more premium options. So, ensure your draught lager offering caters for these sports fans. Equally, don’t forget those moderating their alcohol intake.  Research showed that 28% of frequent pub goers asked, who are planning not to drink at a World Cup game, would opt for a non-alcoholic lager. Consumers remain category loyal when moderating, so offer non-alcoholic options for lager, cider, ale, spirits, and wine drinkers so they don’t have to compromise.

“Publicans have felt conflicted as to what trade they should prioritise this winter due to the unprecedented FIFA World Cup and Christmas clash. Many customers will still be looking for individual experiences, which puts operators in a difficult position, as they have never had to plan for such different occasions at the same time” said HEINEKEN UK On-Trade Category and Commercial Director, Charlie Fryday.  

“33% of those asked said they are more likely to plan a get-together with friends at a pub or bar this winter because of the football World Cup, compared to 27% of sports fans who said because it is the Christmas period. However, it is important to create an environment that can be enjoyed by all this winter, maximising the opportunity of increased footfall from sports fans, on top of festive trade. Segmenting zones or areas can help ensure customers enjoy their individual experiences. For example, an otherwise empty function room could be used for hosting private Christmas parties, whilst your main bar area screens the World Cup,” explains Fryday.

67% told us that recent cost-of-living increases meant they will be watching their money more carefully this winter. So, operators must think beyond how to maximise this opportunity, and ensure they are also offering good value.

“Historically pubs and bars wouldn’t necessarily look at deep promotions over the festive period. However, with more than three-quarters of consumers surveyed planning to cut their spending in the on-trade or reduce how often they visit pubs or bars, it is important to make your venue, products, and any deals as attractive as possible. Attracting footfall is the primary challenge, so it’s positive to see 38% plan to visit the on-trade more frequently this winter due to the tournament. Once in the pub, we know consumers are still choosing more premium brands at the bar – so they are buying less but spending more. Consider flexing your deals for different events, such as match day promotions or exclusive deals for larger group bookings*. Offers on sparkling wine and more premium options are better for those celebrating a Christmas get together and looking to trade-up during the season. Consider exclusive deals for both Christmas and match day pre-bookings, which will also help with staffing and stock orders. Communicating your offering – particularly on social media – will keep your venue buzzworthy all week and help to stand out in a competitive industry. Research revealed that 3 in 10 consumers check an outlet’s drinks menu online before visiting, and 1 in 4 check social media profiles,” said Fryday. 

Even with the increased sales opportunity, there may still be concerns from publicans who are planning to prioritise FIFA World Cup screenings over Christmas parties. However, HEINEKEN UK’s latest research may be able to reassure operators, as 72% of consumers who took part in the survey said they wouldn’t mind a World Cup football match being shown even if they were booking a Christmas gathering. For those venues that don’t show sport, 43% of pub goers asked said that this year’s World Cup will have no impact on how often they attend the pub this winter, with 95% of respondents saying they have attended a pub or bar for a Christmas social in the past. The on-trade remains a firm favourite for friends and family to get together during the Christmas period.

Previous Plant Based World Expo launches industry content platform Plant Based World Pulse
Next Cocktail & Food Pairings: Meyer Group’s top tips for your next dinner party