Carnival time: Getting ready for the Rio Olympics

Richard Woodard

15 July 2016

Get your offering right and the Rio Olympics could be a fantastic opportunity to pull in some extra business. Richard Woodard finds out how venues can make the most of a summer of samba

It’s fair to say that the Games of the XXXI Olympiad – better-known as Rio 2016 – have had a troubled build-up to date. Beyond the traditional niggles over venue completion and the cost of the whole shebang, the first summer Olympic Games to be held in South America have been beset by a number of problems.

The cleanliness of the water off the Rio beaches and the Zika virus, for instance, are not small issues. Nor is the fact that Brazil is undergoing its worst recession since the 1930s. Oh, and what on earth are golf and rugby sevens doing as part of the sporting menu?

That said, with 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries, and with more than 300 events taking place, it’s going to be a massive affair. But does that sheer scale translate into a money-spinning few weeks for bars and restaurants thousands of miles away in the UK?

‘As with all large sporting occasions that have the potential to embrace the nation and not just one team, this should be a great opportunity for the trade,’ says Ashley Coe of Mangrove UK. ‘Undoubtedly, there may be a reduced UK focus compared to the last Olympics, which were in London, but there are still some key promotional initiatives that can be undertaken.’

So let’s take a look at a few of them...

Venue preparation
We’re presupposing here that you’re happy to turn your bar/pub/restaurant into an Olympics-fest for the duration of the Games. And if you (and your customers) are, bear in mind that you won’t be alone – and you won’t stay ahead of the local competition by sticking up a simple poster saying ‘Watch the 100m final here’.

What’s the best tactic, then? ‘It’s all about making it clear to consumers that the venue is “the spot” to watch the Olympics, and creating an environment that delivers on this promise,’ advises Steve Luttmann, founder and CEO of Leblon Cachaça. ‘From extra televisions for watching the game, through a Brazilian menu of special drinks and snacks, to clearly publishing the times of all the sporting events being shown at the venue.’

How far you want to go will depend on two things: how far you believe your clientele will embrace the Games; and how deep your pockets are, of course. ‘A venue could simply put up a few Brazilian decorations to enhance the Olympic atmosphere, or they could replace framed pictures with those of iconic Olympic moments,’ suggests Coe.

‘You also find some venues like to play vintage radio broadcasts in the bathroom, which means they may also be able to play vintage Olympic moments too. Depending on budget, you could also look at themed drinking vessels and musical entertainment, such as Brazilian dancers. Remember: lots of venues will be looking to change their appearance, so be as innovative as possible to stand out.’

Event planning
The obvious temptation is to plough the lion’s share of your budget into buying up all the giant screens in your neighbourhood, so that the punters absolutely cannot miss a moment of the action. But be careful, warns Guy Topping, brand development manager at Amathus Drinks. ‘It all works, but remember not to ostracise your important existing customers. If you make it more event-led, rather than a blanket few weeks, you can have better focus and it is easier to aim directly at your customer base.’

If ever cachaça in general and the Caipirinha in particular are to have their moment, this August should be it, particularly if the UK is blessed with some Copacabana sunshine. The bonus with the Caipirinha – muddled lime wedges and sugar, ice, cachaça, hard shake – is that it’s a beautifully simple drink that requires little fuss and paraphernalia (see p.98 for more on cachaça).

And beyond that? ‘Feature menus promoting the drinks and the sporting event times are critical,’ says Luttmann. ‘Serving simple Brazilian snacks such as pão de queijo (cheese bread) or pastels with various suggestions of Caipirinhas, Batidas and other Brazilian cocktails will certainly help transport consumers to Brazil, giving them a unique experience. To make the Caipirinhas fun, source the freshest fruit possible, and offer the customer alternative combinations.’

Brazilian wine, too, is beginning to make an impression in the UK (see box), with Bibendum PLB head of customer marketing, Golnoosh Khadivi, claiming it as a ‘great match’ for grilled meats.

‘Venues with a garden/outdoor space could look at hosting a Brazilian barbecue while enjoying the Games,’ she says.

But you don’t need to just focus on Brazil – after all, the Olympics are a global sporting celebration, with more than 200 countries competing.

‘Undoubtedly, Brazilian cuisine will come to the fore during the Olympics, but in order to stand out from the next bar, you could look at enhancing your overall offering by focusing on various nationalities,’ suggests Coe. ‘A simple drink menu that has a cocktail for each nation could be innovative. For example, a Velho Barreiro Caipirinha could represent Brazil, a Portobello Road Gin Collins could represent the UK, and a Solerno Spritz could represent Italy.’

With similar thinking, Khadivi says: ‘Looking at the events planner, operators can hero wines from a specific country that is competing in a chosen event – for example France v Uruguay. They can offer customers the chance to “try before they buy” – a fun and relevant opportunity to encourage upselling, as well as using visually striking POS materials.’

Topping agrees. ‘Although it’s taking place in Brazil, the Olympics involve most countries, so it’s not just about promoting Brazilian culture,’ he says. ‘At this time, all ethnic-led venues – Swedish, Australian, and so on – can make added sales by emphasising national drinks.’

All in the timing
To state the obvious: Rio is in a different time zone to the UK (four hours behind), so evening events in particular may begin or end at a late hour. But on the positive side, high-profile matches or races may occur at normally quiet times. ‘A lot of it depends on the timing of the events, but there is always substantial interest in football in particular,’ says Topping. ‘Depending on scheduling, it often leads to great increases in on-trade activity during the early part of the week – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – when traditionally venues are less busy.’

‘Certain events will get an excellent turn-out, and others will be rather weak,’ points out Luttmann. ‘Check the times of the events as these will be critical to determining the best to focus on for turn-out.’ And plan ahead, adds Coe. ‘Depending on the time differences, you might find that there’s a key event that is not taking place at an ideal time – whether that’s due to it being at a less ideal time overall, or your licence not covering the time it’s showing,’ she says.

‘If it is a significant event, you could look to see if you can apply for an extended licence and then publicise the fact that your venue is going to be showing the sporting action, and make it as enticing as possible for customers.

‘But,’ she concludes, ‘if you are looking to show the 100m live final, remember that you will need to keep your guests engaged for the time before and after the nine seconds it lasts!’

The legal bit

You know that great marketing idea you’ve got for using the Olympic rings to highlight your daily specials? Well beware. It’s illegal – and you could end up receiving a hefty fine if you use them.

We may all value those princely Olympic ideals of fair play, brotherly love and how it’s the taking part, not the winning, that really matters, but… Who are we kidding? The Olympic Games is a massive commercial opportunity, and global brands from Coca-Cola to McDonald’s will be paying huge amounts of cash to be associated with the event.

What does that mean to you? Well, unless you too have coughed up an eye-watering sum to the International Olympic Committee, you’ll need to be very careful indeed how you go about associating your venue with the Games this summer.

In practical terms, this means not using anything that relates to the Olympic name, logo or colours in a public space – or you might end up spending your extra takings on a stiff penalty.

But don’t be too put off: apply a little lateral thinking and get creative, and you can still find ways of jumping on the Rio bandwagon. Bibendum PLB reckons using straplines such as ‘Bringing the carnival to the UK’ is totally acceptable, and opens up all manner of opportunities for decoration, themed evenings and cocktails, for example.

Lessons from the past

Do global sporting events bring the punters out in droves to sit and watch the action with a glass in one hand and a plate in the other? Or do they stock up at their local Tesco and veg out in front of the telly instead?

‘We learnt from the World Cup in Brazil that international viewers love to participate in the sporting event by consuming the habits and customs of Brazil from afar,’ says Steve Luttmann of Leblon Cachaça. ‘If you can’t afford a ticket to the Olympics, the next best thing to do is to watch the Games at a bar with an ice-cold Caipirinha.’

Sounds great in theory, but in practice? Evidence cited by Bibendum PLB and taken from the most recent global sporting event, the Rugby World Cup last autumn, paints a mixed picture:

The top 10 rugby pubs operated by Young’s saw a 40% like-for-like trading boost from the event (Propel, November 2015)

When England played at RWC 2015, bars’ average drinks takings were more than £1,000 up on an average Saturday (CGA Peach’s Trading Index)

One in six UK consumers chose to watch a match from the first two weekends of the tournament in a pub, bar or restaurant (BrandPulse)

Pub like-for-like sales were up 9% in the week commencing 28 September (second week of the tournament), well ahead of a 2.7% increase for restaurants in the same week (CGA Peach’s Coffer Peach Business Tracker)

On the flipside, Asda reported that ‘posh snacking’ was winning ground from pubs during the tournament, with nearly one-third of 1,000 adults surveyed shopping for gourmet party food and canapés, and almost 15% shopping to fill cheeseboards

In one of the more unlikely Rugby World Cup stats, 15% of men opted to drink rosé wine and prosecco while watching the action (Asda survey)

Brazilian wine: is the UK ready?

Think South American wine and Brazil isn’t exactly top of most people’s list: Chile, Argentina and even Uruguay enjoy far greater recognition from consumers and trade alike. But there are signs of that changing – and the winning combination of the 2014 football World Cup and this year’s Olympics could be just the boost that Brazilian wine needs. Bibendum PLB reckons its sales of Brazilian wine have risen by 71% over the past year alone, and adds the following statistical support for the continuing rise of the segment:

Sales of Brazilian wine in the on-trade surged up 117% by value and 126% by volume last year (CGA)

On-trade distribution of Brazilian wine has increased by 126% over the same period (CGA)

Only 10% of Brazilian wine sold in the on-trade is red, and 90% is white wine (CGA)

The bestselling Brazilian wine style in the on-trade is a Pinot Grigio/Riesling blend, such as Miolo Alísios Seival Estate. Distribution in the on-trade has doubled over the past year (CGA)

OLYMPIC GAMES TIMELINE 5 August 10pm Opening ceremony 13 August 4pm Women’s tennis singles final 14 August 12am Men’s 10,000m final 14 August 2:35am Women’s 100m 14 August 4pm Men’s tennis singles final 15 August 2:25am Men’s 100m 16 August 8pm Women’s cycling sprint 19 August 9:30pm Women’s football final 20 August 2:35am Men’s 4x100m relay 20 August 2:15am Women’s 4x100m relay 20 August 9:30pm Men’s football final 21 August 12:15am Men’s 5,000m final 21 August 10pm Closing ceremony

Illustration: Paul Oakley

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