College football season is nearly upon us and many alumni clubs around the country are preparing for their college team’s game watches. If your club likes to get together for games, you may already have game watch location picked and ready to go. But if you are still looking for that perfect spot, you may already know that it can be challenging to find one. Never fear! I’ve recently talked with a group of fellow alumni club leaders and they passed along some great tips I’d like to share with you.
Game Watch Venue Rule #1
It’s really the only rule about game watch locations as far as I’m concerned. Find a venue and stick with it. At least for one season. Consistency is an important part of growing your game watches so having one venue where they can always find you is important. You can change if the venue doesn’t work out but do that after the season ends. Just my two cents.
Finding Possible Game Watch Venues
The first challenge my alumni club leader friends discussed is simply where to look for your new game watch location. Regardless of small town or big city, finding a central location that has everything you need can be tough to find but not impossible! Here are a few tips my peers suggested:
- Find out from your University if any alumni in your town own a restaurant or bar Your club coordinator can look in their alumni records (or provide you with a report) to find out if anyone owns a spot and they can provide you with that contact info. Having an alumni owner automatically builds a relationship with your group and sometimes can open opportunities for that venue to work with the University on other events.
- Poll your alumni – where do they like to watch sports game? Sometimes a loyal group of alums already have a spot where they like to watch the games. Or poll your group using a Twitter or Facebook survey. It never hurts to start your game watches with an existing alumni or fan base for your team!
- Do you know of any venues that draw crowds for sports games? In my town Yelp releases an annual College Game Watch Locations post that includes a complete list of the spots where local alumni groups meet for their games. This can be helpful in starting your search (even if it means ruling out some spots because they will be too crowded – Ohio State and Florida alumni clubs I’m looking at you!).
- Conversely, are there venues that don’t draw big crowds on game days? You know those spots. They are located in business parks and draw lunch and dinner crowds during the week but are nearly empty on weekends. These can be great spots for game watches particularly if you have a large or committed group of alumni who want to watch games (barspeak – guaranteed business!). The best thing about these hidden gems is that you can take over the space and usually get TV with sound without a problem.
- Are there any new sports bars or restaurants in your area? Again, Yelp can be a good source of this information. New bars and restaurants are always looking to bring in crowds and alumni game watches are right up their alley. Reach out to the owner or event coordinator to ask questions or arrange for your group to meet there.
Test Your Venue Before Game Watch Season Starts
Just because you find a spot doesn’t mean that you should put all your eggs in one basket before the season starts. You need to find out if it’s really going to work for you club. One colleague said she always holds a test event prior to committing to a game watch location. Hold a happy hour or social event prior to your game watches to find out if the venue can meet your needs and to get some early feedback from your alumni. You’ll want to know things like:
- Is it easy to find?
- How’s parking? Is it easy to get there using other means of transportation (for folks in big cities)?
- Was your space reserved as promised?
- Was the staff aware of your event and were they able to accommodate you?
- Was your group happy with the selections and quality of the menu items?
- Did the place have a good vibe? Was the staff helpful and friendly? How was the service?
- Are there enough TVs? Can you see them from the tables? Do they appear to have a good sound system?
You can get this information during the event or through a short survey of the attendees. This will give you what you need to confirm your game watch schedule or keep looking.
A Few Questions to Ask Before Confirming Your Venue
Assuming you’re happy with the spot, your next step is to reach out to the owner or event coordinator to get some more information. I really don’t recommend confirming your schedule until you’ve asked these questions. Why? Because ideally you’re going to lock in this location for the entire season and you don’t want any surprises. Another club leader colleague shared this checklist of questions that she uses when having that conversation. You must ask questions 1-4. Questions 5-7 are optional depending on your group.
- What other groups meet at your location on game days (in case you haven’t been able to determine that from your own research)? What time are their games and how large of a group do they have? (You can usually find their game schedule on that team’s site)
- How many TVs do you have and where are they located?
- Will we be able to get sound for our games? (Trust me, listening to 80s classics or some other game while your game is on is very distracting)
- Will we be able to reserve tables/space/a room for our game watch or is it first-come-first served only? (the latter is usually a deal-breaker for me)
- Do you have food and beverage specials on game day?
- Can you offer our group a discount on game day food and beverage purchases? If so, how much and how do we make sure it gets applied to each check? (that last question is really important. Nothing like promising your alumni a discount and no one gets it.)
- Are you able to make a donation to our club based on our food and beverage purchases throughout the season? Some restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings have a program that allows you to turn your group’s purchases into a donation to your club. Check out their Home Team Advantage program page.
Schedule Your Game Watches and Enjoy!
I absolutely recommend laying out your entire game watch schedule in advance and giving it to the event coordinator. This will give her time to check the venue’s calendar to see if there might be conflicts that she already knows about. Having this schedule on her books early will also mean that other clubs that share your spot will have to schedule around you. I also arrange with the coordinator to confirm each game watch 24-48 hours in advance just so her staff knows we’ll be there. This can be done through an email or quick phone call.
Once you’ve locked in your schedule for the season it’s “go team” time! Up next, I’ll “tackle” (see what I did there) marketing and attendance for game watches.