Why Sports Teams & Restaurants Can Be a Winning Combination

More and more restaurants are creating partnerships with sports teams to increase revenue and foster deeper connections with patrons. The sports bar and restaurant chain Wings and Rings is just one example. The chain recently became the season's preferred wing provider at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio, home of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

The restaurant is no stranger to sports partnerships as it's previously held relationships with other teams and institutions in the Ohio area, including the Cincinnati Bengals, FC Cincinnati, and the University of Cincinnati.

We caught up with Wings and Rings’ VP of Marketing Kelly Hoyman discuss the details of this latest partnership with the Reds, and why other bars and restaurants should look to sports for marketing opportunities

Wings and Rings' Partnership with the Cincinnati Reds 

Wings and Rings has partnered with the Reds for several years, and the relationship has presented plenty of opportunities for the restaurant brand to connect with sports fans in the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

"Not only is the southern Ohio/northern Kentucky/eastern Indiana market our biggest market in term of footprint, but we’re also a Cincinnati-based company. The Reds are our hometown team," says Hoyman. "The Reds are an extremely young team with a bright future, and we’re excited to be partnered with them for their rise over the next couple seasons and hopefully beyond."

The current agreement with the Reds runs through the end of the 2026 season and includes marketing and brand visibility in person at the ballpark, on TV, and on the radio. New this season, Wings and Rings has taken over the Fan Connect Zone along the third base line in Great American Ballpark. "[We] turned it into a Wings and Rings experience for fans to enjoy some food and a beer and recharge their devices. It’s a little like going to a Wings and Rings at the ballpark," says Hoyman. "The brand-new, open-air market along the third baseline is selling our boneless wings and onion rings, so Reds fans can enjoy our food at the park this year. In addition, we receive brand placements along the first and third baselines during games as well as an incentive on physical and digital tickets for Reds fans to come into our local restaurants. There are also some really great opportunities to cater some events the team is associated with, as well as deliver some treats to the announcers during games throughout the year."

Wings and Rings also takes the opportunity to promote the partnership within its restaurants by displaying Reds schedules and showing games on their TVs. The Reds have also donated memorabilia, tickets, and other prizes for fundraisers and events at local Wings and Rings locations.

wings and rings cincinnati reds
(Photo: Wings and Rings)

Sports Partnerships Benefits & ROI

It can be difficult to measure the exact ROI on sports partnerships, but thanks to the multiple marketing channels involved in Wings and Rings' partnership with the Reds, the restaurant believes it will drive traffic to its stores.

"The visibility a professional sports team can offer a brand is enormous. They have media resources and in-venue visibility options that any brand would be eager to take advantage of," says Hoyman. "Sales of our product in the stadium this season have exceeded expectations and have also provided us with a clarity on which of our sauces Reds fans most enjoy during games."

Aside from the effects on sales and traffic numbers, Wings and Rings also sees its sports partnerships as a way to invest in and raise its profile within the local community. "We’re a sports bar franchise at our core, so associating ourselves with our hometown teams is essential. Sports fans are our core audience, and we want to let them know we’re invested in the same teams and events they are," says Hoyman. "Professional sports, for many cities, are the heartbeat of the town they’re in. If we can make it clear that we support our teams and support our community, that’s a fabulous way to let customers know that we’re a winning local option for them."

The benefits of partnerships with sports teams can go beyond the local market as well. In fact, Hoyman advises restaurants to push for a partnership that allows a multichannel approach to marketing to its fanbase. "We’re a Cincinnati-based franchise, but we have restaurants in Texas, Florida, California and other states. How do they benefit from a sponsorship? It’s important that partnerships allow you to have a digital footprint, a social footprint, or visibility across the airwaves so you can maximize your exposure to other markets," she says. "If a Houston Astros or Texas Rangers fan is watching a game against the Reds, and they see our imaging in the stadium and think, 'Oh, that’s the spot we’ve been meaning to try down the road, we should do that this weekend,' then we’ve hit a homerun."


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