As the saying goes, “Play Ball!”

Baseball is officially back in 2019, and after a long winter, fans are excited for a fresh start to the new season. While Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is not a national holiday (despite a clear demand from fans), baseball spectators make a great effort to get to the ballpark even during the business day.

As with many major sports, game day traditions are a given, including pre and post-game drinks - Opening Day attendees will know there’s nothing quite like having a cold one in celebration of baseball’s most highly anticipated event. This is also true of fans who do not have tickets, but still want to take part by watching nearby in their favourite bar or restaurant. It’s common to see outlets flooded with baseball-loving patrons on big days like these.

For drink brands looking to capitalise on Opening Day celebrations and effectively target sports day consumers, it’s key that they know what sells. So, what were the most popular drink choices in bars and restaurants around ballparks on Opening Day and throughout the weekend? How does this inauguration impact the sales of those outlets vs the previous weekend? Nielsen CGA’s CLIP tool (Check Level Insights Pool) is designed to answer these key questions which empower brands to make strategic and effective decisions around sporting event marketing and sales.

So, how does it work?

We have developed CLIP to provide powerful transaction level data from bars and restaurants across the US. This tool has allowed us to track alcohol sales on several different levels and gain unprecedented insights into consumer preference and behaviour during significant sporting events like Opening Day.

Below we’ve shared some compelling CLIP data gathered from a collection outlets within a 5-mile radius of ballparks that hosted Opening Day this year, showing just how influential this spectacle is to On Premise:

The Marriage Between Beer and Baseball: When looking at total Spirits vs total Beer (below), Spirits showed the higher uplift in value rate of sale (+18.3%) vs the previous weekend, as Beer still performed well (+10.6%). However, when we take a deeper look into the data, it’s clear that one particular segment is holding Beer’s value back from keeping in line with Spirits.

Domestic Premium Beers: (corn syrup or not) performed the best within the category, increasing its value rate of sale by +23.1% in all outlets and +29.8% in drinking outlets. These figures are also higher than the change vs the previous weekend for all Spirits. When drilling down to the Early Evening / Happy Hour time slot (5-8pm), drinking outlets saw a +25.6% increase in value velocity and sold at a median item price of $5.13. This was an increase of 5.5% compared to the previous weekend. The evening / Happy Hour time slot accounts for post-game visits on Opening Day as well as pregame and in-game visits for the weekend games which were mostly played at night.

Aside from Domestic Premium Beers, baseball fans did not shy away from Imports. The best-selling Beer segment in the On Premise saw a +14.3% increase in value rate of sale, with +20.3% spike in Drinking outlets. Despite having less growth versus the previous weekend compared to Domestic Premiums, Imports still supported a higher overall rate of sale. The same gains cannot be said for Craft Beer however. Crafts only experienced a +4.7% growth, and just 0.8% in Drinking outlets. Given these figures, Craft had its highest increase in Eating outlets (+6.8%) suggesting it was a more popular choice to enjoy with a meal and a more relaxed environment. As a whole, Beer gets a much-needed boost in sales with the help of Opening Day and the start of the baseball season. Domestic Premiums, a segment searching for answers, was able to capitalise and sends a friendly reminder that Beer’s relationship with baseball is one that has been around for over 100 years and should always provide a boost for the category.

Vodka - Spirits’ Power Hitter: Circling back to Spirits (below), Vodka was the leader by far during the opening weekend of America’s Pastime. The category posted a +32.3% increase in value rate of sale, and an impressive +46.4% in Drinking outlets. Being such a universal Spirit, Vodka caters to several consumers preferences when out, providing plenty of options for consumption. Tequila, which is the fastest growing Spirits Category in the On Premise, also experienced surges in velocity vs the previous weekend. While Tequila finishes behind Vodka in growth, Whiskey boasted a slightly better rate of sale. The difference in performances for these two Spirits categories stem from the balance between Eating and Drinking outlets. Of all alcohol categories, Whiskey provided the highest median price point of $11.36, which was about $1.50 more than Vodka.

Market Performance: You may be asking yourself, which cities’ bars and restaurants had the highest increases from the previous weekend? Perhaps the addition of a superstar talent and a revamped roster in Philadelphia played a role, as the City of Brotherly Love had the highest rate of sale for Beer (+40.3%) and 2nd for Spirits (+29.6%). The state of California (San Diego, Oakland / San Francisco, and Los Angeles) especially performed well in the mid-afternoon (3pm-5pm) with Domestic Premiums where it had an increased value rate of sale of 150.7% compared to the weekend before. Its median item price ($5.08) and ticket value price ($44.98) also increased, showing demand for the type of product. Being more of a Craft focused market, we can see how influential the opening weekend of baseball was on consumers’ preferences within Beer. Washington D.C was the market that had a significant difference in value rate of sale for Spirits over Beer, with a +43.5% increase in Spirits compared to Beers +11.4%.

Baseball is back, and as the data shows, establishments local to ballparks will continue to reap the benefits. Event analysis such as Opening Day is just one of the many capabilities CLIP has. This tool is continuously providing us with extremely valuable insight into the many variables that impact drink sales (which brands can use to their advantage).

Want to see more? Dive into another article stemming from CLIP data focusing on St. Patrick’s Day is to sales.

     

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