How Hosting Major Sporting Events is Giving the UK Economy a Post-Pandemic Boost

How Hosting Major Sporting Events is Giving the UK Economy a Post-Pandemic Boost

Read Time: 4 Minutes


16 Jul 2021

While 2020 saw the summer of sport we all know and love paused indefinitely, 2021 paints a much different picture – both for sports fans and UK businesses alike. And with Wimbledon, the Euros, the Champions League, Lions Rugby Tour and Olympics all back with a bang, certain industries are already ready seeing a well-overdue increase in sales.

However, to make the most of sporting events, businesses should be prepared to pivot their typical offering to adapt to the ever-changing coronavirus requirements. Along with the companies benefitting from the return of sport this year, here’s how some businesses have adapted to make the most of these major events.

Strawberries and Pimm’s flowing freely at Wimbledon

In 2019, nearly 2 million strawberries were sold at Wimbledon alone at £2.50 for a portion of 10 berries with cream. When the tournament was cancelled in 2020, this was a huge loss for growers and sellers of this fruity favourite.

To help make sure as little of the crop went to waste as possible, the AELTEC (All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club Limited) donated 26,000 strawberries to NHS staff and frontline workers as a gesture of appreciation for their help during the peak of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

This year, despite the government postponing lockdown lifting, Wimbledon welcomed a full capacity crowd on its final weekend on centre court, with 50% capacity across the rest of the courts. According to FMC, the company which caters for the thirsty tennis fans at Wimbledon, they supplied around 150,000 glasses of Pimm’s and 17,000 bottles of fizz across the fortnight, which was fantastic news for the official sponsors, Pimm’s and Lanson.


Making the most of tennis fever

Supermarkets also saw the benefit of the highly anticipated tennis event, with a spokesperson from supermarket chain Asda revealing they expected to sell over 50,000 bottles of Pimm’s, over 120,000 packs of scones and 2.4mn punnets of strawberries over the fortnight.

Morrisons launched their online food boxes at the start of the pandemic. The pre-prepared boxes filled with ‘essentials’ to help ease the demand for online delivery slots when shoppers were encouraged to stay home.

Showing that same innovative spirit, the return of Wimbledon in 2021 saw Morrisons launch the ultimate Tennis Treats box, which included everything tennis fans needed to enjoy the final from the comfort of their own home, such as Pimm’s pitcher ingredients, strawberries and clotted cream. They also included a branded Robinson’s water bottle and a tournament chart of the games, all for just £28. 

The supermarket also launched the Mega BBQ Box, the Aperol Spritz Box and a Big Match Bundle created especially for the Euro fans ahead of the England v Italy final.


Euros bringing home profits for pubs

On big match days, like the Euros final, sales in pubs and bars showing sports are usually 200-300% higher than normal, and despite the limits in capacity, pubs showing the matches this year have still seen around a 60% uplift.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) estimated that nearly 13mn pints would be sold on the day of the final, with 7.1 million of those being sold during the actual game.

Star Bars & Pubs, which has 2,900 sites across the country, have seen an increase of 150% against the equivalent day two years ago as the semi-finals saw them enjoy their biggest day of sales since the Saturday before Christmas 2019.


A change of licensing laws during the Euros tournament

A temporary relaxation of licensing laws meant premises could stay open an extra 45 minutes during the Euro 2020 final in England and Wales. 

This saved pubs and bars from having to apply to their local authority 10 days in advance to extend their opening hours in order for it to be processed and gave them an extra boost by allowing them to keep serving throughout the match.


Lost sales for Wetherspoons

Despite recovering well from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Euros saw a dent in sales for pub chain giant Wetherspoons, largely due to its longstanding policy of not screening most football matches.

In the month leading up to the football championships, Wetherspoon’s like-for-like sales were just 8.1% lower during the same period in 2019. But from 10th June to 4th July, as the Euros began, sales dropped by 20.8%.

With much of the crowds going elsewhere to get their football fix, Wetherspoons told pub managers they would be allowed to show the football if they wished, however, some sites have no televisions, and most only have one or two small screens.


Lockdown challenges for pubs during Euros

Although the football brought welcome trade to these businesses who have faced significant financial hardship throughout the pandemic, many pubs were still struggling, with lockdown restrictions and table service proving challenging and costly.

Some pubs had to take a loss by shutting due to members of staff testing positive for coronavirus, whereas others that did open at a limited capacity could only cater for a few.

To get around capacity restrictions, some pubs that have space for it have set up outdoor areas under marquees with screens. The chef and owner of House of Feasts in Peterborough, Damian Wawrzyniak, shared with the BBC how his venue set up a massive six-metre screen in a marquee and two large screens under a pergola to offer plenty of room to fans.

Wawrzyniak showed tenacity throughout 2020 too as he kept the business afloat during lockdown by opening a delicatessen shop in the pub, selling boxes of goods online across the country.

Likewise, landlady Jackie Fairburn from the Hare & Hounds in West Yorkshire has managed to pay off all of the debt she accumulated due to trading restrictions in lockdown, with England’s success providing vital income when she needed it most. 

To accommodate local footie fans, Ms Fairburn borrowed money to maximise space in the premise’s garden to build five marquees, allowing her to accommodate up to 150 customers.


Looking forward to a brighter future 

With bookings for tables in pubs selling out in no time at all, it’s safe to say that the hunger for making a night out of watching sports at the local bar is still raging on. According to a report from KAM Media and MatchPint, 43% said that watching sports is what they’re looking forward to most about returning to pubs this summer.

And it’s not just the football fans! 73% of UK adults intend to watch some of the Olympics on TV, with 9% intending to watch it in a pub or bar – that’s equivalent to 4.7m of the population!

Plus, with restrictions easing on the 19th of July, this gives businesses like pubs and bars the opportunity to operate at full capacity and generate pre-COVID levels of revenue.

After pressing the pause button on sport last summer due to the pandemic, there’s still plenty to come. And as a nation, we’re ready to make the most of it.

In terms of which sports pubs and bars are planning on showing, according to the aforementioned report, 83% will show the UEFA Champions League Final, 75% will show the Lions rugby tour, and 73% intend to show at least some events during the Olympic games.

If you’re planning on showing any of the upcoming sporting action in your venue, make sure you spread the word early to get ahead of the competition with posters and posts on social media. 

Non-hospitality industries can also take advantage by hosting relevant, themed sales, events and promotions. The Morrisons Tennis Treats box is a fantastic example of how to pivot your product offering and marketing messaging to appeal to customers during this team. 

Just as thinking outside the box was important during the pandemic, it’s equally as important as we manoeuvre our way out to it too!


About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura and I’m the Head of instantprint. I’m dedicated to using my experience to help small businesses make the most out of their marketing.