Olympic shrines, medal count boards and Going for Gold cocktails: Making the most of national events

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Geronimo Inns created individual shrines and promised locals a free party if their adopted star grabbed a gold, silver or bronze
Geronimo Inns created individual shrines and promised locals a free party if their adopted star grabbed a gold, silver or bronze
With the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games now over, hospitality businesses in the capital have had time to reflect on event's financial repercussions. BigHospitality has spoken to three of these businesses to find out how successful their special Olympic-themed offers and promotions were.

The ideas:

  • Pub group Geronimo Inns​, which has over 30 sites across London including two at Westfield Stratford City, adjacent to the Olympic Park, backed various Team GB medal hopefuls competing in the 2012 games by creating individual shrines and promising locals a free party if their adopted star grabs a gold, silver or bronze.
The campaign caught the attention of Team GB star Shanaze Reade (BMX), tweeted support to the pub backing her

Each Geronimo Inns pub took part in a lottery-style draw in June, where they were assigned an Olympian to support. Throughout the Games, each pub was challenged with promoting their athlete with a 'shrine' dedicated to their star including a poster of the athlete, banners, medals, and other sports paraphernalia.

  • Italian bar and pizzeria Bunga Bunga​ in London’s Battersea was transformed into the ‘Italian players’ lounge’ for the duration of the Games, with an Italian medal count board keeping a running tab on how many golds, silvers and bronzes had been bagged by the Italian Olympic team.
Bunga Bunga held its own opening and closing ceremonies

Waiters and bar staff were dressed in Italian Olympic team outfits and the venue held its own opening and closing ceremony, with karaoke and a ‘running track’ leading up to the venue. Bunga Bunga also launched the ‘Olympic Flame-ing’ sharing cocktail along with a new drinking game, ‘Shot Put’.

  • Meanwhile, the Bingham hotel and restaurant​ in Richmond aimed to capture the buzz surrounding the Olympics with the launch of three new cocktails created by in-house mixologist Ciprian Lazar.
In-house mixologist Ciprian Lazar created three Olympics-themed cocktails at the Bingham

Coinciding with the Bingham's launch of the three new Olympic-themed cocktail creations, the hotel's all-day lounge-bar also  staged the ‘Going for Gold Cocktail Hour’, allowing its guests to enjoy two of the cocktails for the price of one, running every evening from Monday to Thursday at 5pm.

Why these initiatives?

"We didn’t know what the Games were going to be like for business but we wanted to be involved," said Ed Turner, commercial director at Geronimo Inns​. "We wanted to do something fun that would engage customers and staff (the pubs were judged internally on how their shrines and their marketing over the period).

"Because none of us had ever worked through an event like the Olympics we really didn’t know what to expect, we thought the idea was great though and the guys at the pub really got behind it – when you have that support you kind of know it’s going to work."

Bunga Bunga's ​owner Charlie Gilkes said: “The Olympics was massive for the whole of London, so it was important that we embraced it. We aired the opening ceremony and we had a fantastic party, it was a bit of a different take on the Olympics. Commercially, the opening ceremony was great; loads of people came and watched it in a really shared atmosphere.”

“We also ran a promotion, for anyone who came wearing an Olympic medal could come and drink for free, so we had quite a few medal winners come in and enjoy a few drinks, which again put us in the spotlight.”

Lazar, the mixologist from the Bingham​, added: “We wanted to be part of the Olympic fever that was sweeping the city and the country. Richmond saw the Olympic Torch pass through not once but twice; and we also had a number of cycling events pass by the Bingham.

“The offer was designed to show our support for Team GB and the Games, and encourage guests to come and make the most of London 2012 with us.

“It turned out to be very successful for us. We found that once guests had enjoyed a couple of 2-for-1 cocktails they would continue to relax in our bar. Some enjoyed trying a few more drinks from our extensive cocktail list, others preferred to move on to beer or wine. As with all offers we calculate our margins carefully and never put ourselves at risk of making a loss.”

The Olympics: Positive or negative?

"Well let’s be honest, no one really had much of a clue what the Olympics would bring business-wise," said Turner of Geronimo Inns​. "After the last few years many businesses and operators were pinning all their hopes on a good summer’s trade, for many this didn’t appear. Equally there were those in the industry who were very negative about the games and how they would affect our industry – in the end I think it ended up somewhere in the middle. 

"The aim of our promotion was not to boost drink sales but was awareness and being known to be doing something fun and interesting. If you have a pub full of people your drink sales should really be looking after themselves if you have the right offer and great staff."

Gilkes from Bunga Bunga ​said: “The Olympics absolutely bought more positives than negatives for us. We had to adapt in terms of deliveries, we had to receive during the night, which in hindsight wasn’t necessarily needed. But we benefitted a lot from international visitors. The world’s focus was on London, there were city guides recommending us and airline magazines.”

Lazar from the Bingham​ added: “The Olympics were 100 per cent positive for us. We saw a rise in the number of guests making the most of our bar, restaurant and rooms. Having a couple of events literally pass by our front door really increased the number of guests visiting the Bingham.

“The Going For Gold promotion certainly helped in promoting the Bingham during the Olympics, and formed part of our overall campaign which included special Olympic rates.”

Do national events provide good business opportunities?

“Absolutely!” added Lazar. “2012 has been a bumper year for Britain with the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.  It is vital for those in the hospitality industry to make the most of any national event and use it as a way of encouraging more guests to visit your establishment.

“As with all promotions, you have to come up with an enticing offer for guests, but one which works practically and financially for the establishment. Add that to the buzz and excitement of a national event and it’s hard to go wrong.

“On a more basic level, it’s great fun to be able to get involved with any event and feel as though you have been a part of it.”

Geronimo Inns' ​Turner is more cautious. He said: "You have to pick and choose, there’s no point in doing something just for the sake of it – shoe horning in some offer and promotion around a big event for no other reason than because everyone else is doing it is waste of time – your customers will spot the incongruity a mile off.

"I’d say that sometimes it’s more interesting not to do anything – why do something just because everyone else is? Don’t be afraid to be different." 

Gilkes from Bunga Bunga​ added: “It really depends on the outlet. For us, our business model is about creating something conceptual and different so we’re not so reliant on these national events. But a bit of forward-thinking and embracement of these events brings a lot of positives.

“It’s not something that we would put on our P&L for the year - it’s more just about embracing it at the time.”

Words of caution...

Turner gave some of his own advice for businesses thinking of running promotions in line with major national events in the future:

  • "A marketing campaign ultimately isn’t going to turn your business around/ It has to be part of the package – great product, great staff, great training. If you do want to do something like this make sure you have in your team people with a bit about them, be that your marketing guys, your external PR company etc. If you’re stuck for ideas why not ask your staff?
  • "Get out of the boardroom and out to your sites, talk to your staff and customers – that’s where it’s at – engage them on your social media channels. For the Paralympics we asked all our pubs what they’d like to do to support the games and get the punters in, one of the pubs suggested a raffle – and that’s what we went with.
  • "Ultimately, you’ve got to have a bit of fun with it, some things are going to work, something’s aren’t (we planned a Geronimo torch relay – a Maglite painted gold which we plugged through the Geronimo social media channels, this didn’t work that well so we abandoned it after a few days), that’s just the way it happens."

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