Sports Bar Social Media Best Practices

Jags With Tags: Q&A with Kelly Lands at Jaxx Sports Bar in downtown Jacksonville, Florida.

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The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville (Florida) Riverfront features two lobby bars in the hotel, Jaxx Sports Bar and Currents Lounge, each serving a different clientele.

“The two bars serve different purposes and provide different atmospheres,” explains Kelly Lands, director of operations at the property. “Currents Lounge is an open lobby bar, which means it doesn’t have a closed door and is an extension of the main lobby. With that open-concept design, it’s the perfect place for networking, socializing, and connecting with others. On the other side of the lobby, Jaxx offers a more private environment with a separate room, which allows for a livelier gathering with conversations and cheering from sports fans.” Jaxx also features about 10 televisions around the bar area to satisfy guests’ needs even when they’re not at the stadium.

Over the past several seasons, the hotel team has honed its expertise in exploiting social media to attract NFL fans, both of visiting teams and the local Jacksonville Jaguars. We spoke with Lands and Rachel Otis, the hotel’s marketing and e-commerce manager, about how they attract as many fans as possible to Jaxx, a venue with no street-level visibility.

Hotel F&B: Why was Jaxx Sports Bar created?

Lands: Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront was built for the 2005 Super Bowl hosted in Jacksonville, and Jaxx Sports Bar was a natural fit. Ever since then, Hyatt has been using the space to serve a full house during football games.

Hotel F&B: Why was there a need to promote Jaxx Sports Bar during football season?

Lands: Jacksonville is the setting for large-scale football games throughout the year, and we’ve witnessed an uptick on football related travelers. We saw the opportunity to market our Jaxx Sports Bar to football teams that stay with us, out-of-town sporting fans, and local guests. In addition to driving awareness and traffic to our lobby bar, we were dedicated to creating a down-home feeling for our guests. Those guests traveling from their hometown want a hometown feel when they come root on their teams.

Hotel F&B: How was Jaxx Sports Bar promoted before an organized social media campaign was launched?

Lands: In the past, we took on traditional marketing tools such as flyer distribution to surrounding apartment complexes and email blasts.

Hotel F&B: Take us through the step-by-step details of how you construct a targeted social media campaign. What are the basics, and how are those basics detailed further to craft a campaign unique to Jaxx Sports Bar, rather than just a generic campaign?

Otis: We created conversational social posts to engage guests even before their arrival. Tailoring our messages and posts to both Jacksonville sports fans and visiting-team guests is the key to generating conversations. Being the closest downtown Jacksonville hotel to EverBank Field gives us the advantage of hosting tens of thousands of sports fans who are looking for that fun experience before, during, and after the game.

We created interesting questions regarding their favorite teams and asked for their favorite food/drink items to create pre-game excitement through social media. For example, we created a post asking for our guests’ favorite happy hour item, telling them where they could cast their votes and share their thoughts. Once we gathered the results, we developed another graphic displaying the top three choices on an awards podium with the first-place winner being chicken wings.

However, each channel is different, targets different audiences, and requires different messaging. It’s important to know your target audience and their habits before creating the overall campaign. Once you have the plan in place, then it’s time to break down each social channel and adjust your tactics or messaging to achieve the best outcome.

Hotel F&B: How did you launch the social media campaign(s) and what channels/platforms did you use?

Otis: We used three primary social media channels for our Jaxx Sports Bar social media campaign: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The campaign was launched before the pre-season games, with the goal to attract guests and start the conversation before the season kicked off and keep it going throughout the entire season.

Hotel F&B: Are there any channels/platforms for a media campaign that you would not use or believe to be a waste of time?

Otis: It all depends on your target audience. Understanding the audience you are trying to reach is the first step in launching any social media campaign. Maintaining relevance to the social platform of your choice will help you convey the right message to the right audience. For example, we did not use LinkedIn to promote Jaxx Sports Bar because our audience base was more casual and social-driven, while LinkedIn has a more career-oriented, professional focus.

Hotel F&B: What are the best times and places to launch social posts, artwork, etc. for a campaign to be most effective?

Otis: It varies for each campaign and goes back to the key point of understanding your audience and their habits. As a hotel, we research and follow industry social media campaigns to learn from best practices all around the country and the world.

Hotel F&B: What were some of the metrics to measure the social media program’s success?

Lands: Rather than focusing on a seasonal revenue increase, our main goal was to create the ultimate guest experience for sports fans. By connecting with them, listening to their needs, and tailoring our offerings to them, we were able to develop repeat clients who are now willing to share us on their own social media accounts. We also created specialty food and drinks; for example, we offered barbecue items when the Houston Texans were playing in Jacksonville and served Margaritas during the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars game. Overall, we saw this approach resonate, and it definitely increased the bottom line, compared to before we started using social media.

Hotel F&B: Was there any area in particular, such as food sales, beverage sales, or local customer traffic, that increased as a direct result of the Jaxx Sports Bar campaign?

Lands: We are a big part of the development efforts for downtown Jacksonville. Because of our unique proximity to EverBank Field, JAXSPORTS (Jacksonville Sports Council) often brought visiting teams to Hyatt, which carried a big number of travelers each time. We took advantage of those opportunities in our marketing strategies.

Another great result from partnering with JAXSPORTS and hosting sports teams is that guests usually spend more time at our F&B outlets, Bloody Mary bars, and other event-specific activities before, during, and after the game, which increases our sales.

Hotel F&B: Why is it important for a hotel F&B venue such as Jaxx Sports Bar to have an organized media campaign to drive sales and customer traffic?

Lands: We decided to launch a strategic social media campaign to highlight our special offerings, happy hours, and raise the awareness of our lobby bars, because they are not visible from streets that have the most game-related traffic. Since then, we have seen an increase in F&B sales at both the Currents Lounge and Jaxx Sports Bar.

Hotel F&B: What advice would you have for other hotel F&B operations looking to promote their venue(s) via multiple media platforms but don’t know where to start? Take us through the basics.

Lands: Make sure that the content you create interests people. Our team is always learning new trends to ensure that our staff understands the local market. With many businesses headquartered in Downtown Jacksonville, happy hour has become one of the most popular social events for young professionals in the city.

Otis: Seize your opportunities with the right concept, price, and atmosphere to create an experience that guests would like to share on social media. In today’s world, people want their friends to see their social experience, so capitalize on that by giving them something to share.


Ashley Allen is an author and writer based in Leesburg, Virginia, whose work also appears in The Huffington Post.


Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

Rachel Otis, marketing and e-commerce manager at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, shares her advice on what to do and what to avoid in creating and executing a successful social media effort for a hotel F&B concept.

DO:

  • Carefully craft your messaging to not only talk TO your audience but talk WITH them regarding the things they care about.
  • Find the perfect timing to post on social media in order to attract the most viewer attention. In our case, the audience was the sports fans.
  • During sports games, it is crucial for us to maintain a neutral tone on social media posts when discussing a game and the teams, so that we engage both sides of fans at the same time.
  • Involve local business partners and communities to participate in conversations by using tags and mentions.
  • Use all appropriate channels of social media to convey a consistent message in a variety of ways.

DON’T:

  • Do not write your social media post in a purely promotional way. Instead, grab their attention with engaging questions and eye-catching graphics that will not necessarily drive direct sales but raise awareness of your hotel’s brand and offerings.
  • Do not post the exact same message on all social channels. Tailoring your message toward each audience base will allow you to connect with a bigger population across all channels.