small business owner stands at the entrance of storefront

50 ideas to increase store traffic during sports events

Sports events bring together communities of fans to share their excitement. And as a part of that fan community, small businesses can increase store traffic and connect with customers by joining in on that fervor.

Whether it’s a game between famous athletes or a local match-up, sports inspire passionate discussion, making them ideal for starting conversations and for marketing. Sports marketing, the promotion of a business or product through the medium of sports, is so broad that any business can take advantage of it, regardless of whether their products have anything to do with sports. 

Plus, small businesses reach new customers with sports marketing because sports fandoms cut through diverse segments of the population. And of course, sports are just fun — and your store can be a part of that infectious joy.

There are many methods for sports marketing, from direct strategies (like airing a commercial during the game) to indirect strategies (like heightening brand awareness through sports-themed store decorations). We cover 50 examples of promotions your business can use to increase traffic during sports events.

Table of contents

Brick-and-mortar store branding ideas for sports events

1. Reward customers for wearing sports apparel

Nothing gets customers through your front door like a prize or discount for simply showing up. And giving out those rewards on the basis of outfits, such as sports team colors or jerseys, is a great way to participate in customers’ enthusiasm for the sport. And because everyone loves a compliment on their outfit, this promotion provides an opportunity for positive interactions at the register.

Funny t-shirt design with a sports theme

Source: netralica via 99designs by Vista

2. Create a banner for the event

Unlike ordinary signs, banners come with a grandiose sense of importance, used historically for the display of family heraldry. For brands on a budget, a banner congratulating a local team for making it to a championship event can be a simple way to display your hometown pride and increase foot traffic.

3. Decorate your store interior with party supplies

Crepe paper, balloons and tableware in sports team colors are an easy way to show your excitement for an upcoming game, celebrate local athletes and give customers a visual break from your ordinary in-store branding. Simple as they are, party supplies accomplish a lot for stores who want to participate in a sports event without spending too much time or money.

Party supply store logo design

Source: TheBluebird via 99designs by Vista

4. Create a sports-themed window display

The beauty of window displays is that they’re always changing. A sports event provides the perfect opportunity for a window display theme that references timely popular culture and resonates with passing traffic. While retail stores might simply update their mannequins with sports apparel, other stores lacking a direct sports connection (like a florist) might decorate their window display with team colors.

5. Set up an A-frame chalkboard sign

An A-frame chalkboard sign is more than an ad for sidewalk traffic — it’s a personalized message. This is a great tool for showing your enthusiasm for an upcoming event or simply celebrating a local team’s accomplishments with a hand-crafted display. And you can always reuse a chalkboard sign for any occasion after the event is over.

6. Set up in-store Instagram photo-ops

Given that Instagram is one the world’s most popular social media platforms, most customers will seize any opportunity to make unique content for it. Transform an unused corner of your store into a photobooth with a selection of props (like helmets, balls or other athletic equipment), backdrop decor and decent lighting and invite customers to your store for a photo opportunity.

Cartoon illustration series of sports-themed spectator avatars

Source: Warlourd arts via 99designs by Vista

7. Display a countdown to game-day

Having a countdown to an upcoming event can both heighten and share in your customers’ anticipation — and it may even spark some game talk during checkout. Whether digital (like a series of social media posts) or physical (like a large printed display with tearaway numbers) a countdown display is an excellent opportunity to show off creative store branding.

8. Create an in-store product display

Product displays near a store’s entrance not only highlight featured products, they entice traffic passing by the front doors. For sports themed ideas, bookstores might set up a table of athletic memoirs while grocery stores might feature watch-party snacks.

Sports-themed book cover design for a parenting self-help book

Source: kostis Pavlou via 99designs by Vista

9. Set up an outdoor food and beverage station

A sidewalk food or beverage station allows store owners to provide free amenities during outdoor athletics. This is ideal for neighborhood sport events that run through the street, like a city marathon or a victory parade, where small businesses can show up for the community right outside their door. And to make your station stand out, show off your branding with a custom tablecloth.

10. Create a sports-themed window decal

Window decals create a seamless sticker sign for glass surfaces. This sleek signage can be used as an illustrated graphic for the store’s front windows or for glass displays inside the store. For example, a grocery store might make decals for their freezer aisle doors that upsell frozen wings as a watch-party snack.

Window decal showing an aspirational fitness design

Source: Aleksey Blue via 99designs by Vista

11. Open a pop-up shop outside the event

Instead of drawing traffic to your store, bring your store to the traffic by opening a pop-up shop outside the event. This promotion will involve securing permission from the venue and putting money into producing an eye-catching booth with standout signage. At the same time, it’s a great way to get your brand in front of people who might not ordinarily visit your store.

Store party ideas for sports events

12. Host a game-day watch party

For televised athletic events, a watch party not only brings locals to your store, it lets you join them as spectactators. This promotion requires a decent size TV, ample seating and food/beverage options, making it ideal for bars and restaurants. To heighten engagement between participants, brainstorm activities for commercial breaks, like recaps or trivia. Don’t neglect to design posters or flyers to promote the event.

Illustration of farm animals watching a sports game in a bar

By miridi via 99designs by Vista

13. Host in-store competitions

Watching athletes compete has a tendency to inspire competition everywhere. Businesses can channel that competitive spirit within their own stores by organizing games for customers. Some examples might include hosting a sports trivia night or a sports-themed in-store scavenger hunt.

14. Set up a raffle

Raffles encourage customers to come in and try their luck—provided the prizes are worth even the small effort it takes to participate. For sports-themed prize ideas, you might consider tickets to the game (if it’s local and affordable) or sports merchandise like a signed jersey or custom watch party kits.

15. Set up a contest box for customers to predict outcomes

Anticipating how the game will turn out is a huge part of the fun in discussing sports. Retail businesses can encourage those discussions by setting up a contest box for predictions beside the register. In contrast to random chance games like raffles, predictions appeal to both casual and serious spectators looking to analyze player stats.

16. Organize your own local ‘tailgate’

Tailgates are parking lot potlucks common in the US and Canada, though pregame public parties are certainly not unique to these countries. These impromptu gatherings, with food literally offered out of the trunks of cars, don’t take a great deal of preparation or cost for local businesses to participate. Since participants bring their own food, this can be a perfect opportunity for non-food and beverage businesses to set up booths offering last minute apparel or merchandise for the game.

Logo design for a tailgate party

Source leargamar via 99designs by Vista

17. Create a custom game-day bingo card

Anything can happen during a sports event, from epic comebacks to halftime show surprises, and bingo cards turn some of your wildest predictions into a fun activity. By giving out custom game-day bingo cards, your business can participate in the spectator experience with its own brand of humor. If you’re hosting a watch party, funny bingo cards also make for great handouts.

18. Host an afterparty

Just because the clock has run out on the game doesn’t mean the fun has to end. Before going home from a local game, fans are still in a state of adrenaline, eager to talk over everything that happened and keep the party going. Your restaurant or bar might just make the perfect destination for a game-day afterparty. To go the extra mile, a custom designed ticket makes the party feel like a VIP event.

Digital promotion strategies for sports events

19. Restyle your website with a sports theme

A sports theme on your business website, like a color scheme change or a cartoon sports animation, keeps your digital content feeling current and unpredictable. Website builders like Wix make it easy to customize your website for special occasions like sports events.

Travel website design with a sports-themed header

Source: ANDREAS STUDIO via 99designs by Vista

20. Create sports-oriented blog content

Blogs aren’t only useful for picking up traffic through SEO, but for educating and entertaining your readers. If your store already maintains a blog, consider ways your brand can transform the sports event into useful content. For example, an electronics brand might produce content around earbuds and get quotes from local athletes about which product they use and what they listen to during training.

21. Encourage user-generated sports content with a hashtag

User-generated content inspires followers to participate directly in your social media feed beyond simple likes and comments. A clothing retail store, for example, could encourage customers to post game-day outfits they’ve purchased. This strategy works particularly well with a promotional hashtag.

22. Partner with a sports influencer

Influencers allow brands to get their products in front of new and big audiences. Partnering with an influencer can involve setting up a photoshoot for a store visit or sending sample products and sponsoring social media content about it. For example, a fitness influencer might show how a product fits into their daily workout.

Boxing themed illustration showing a working partnership

Source: InQueen via 99designs by Vista

23. Share sports-related polls on social media

Sports generate no shortage of passionate opinions, and social media polls encourage customers to channel that passion around your brand. Often the polls that get the most opinions are the silliest, like a salon asking followers to rank the hairstyles of famous athletes. The more wild and unique the poll options are, the more likely followers will want to engage — though prizes for participation, like tagging friends, doesn’t hurt either.

24. Keep customers informed during sports events

For long-running athletics where there are many events happening over a long period of time, like the Olympics or championship playoffs, brands can share updates with customers as its relevant. Alternatively, you might create an intriguing infographic giving statistical, historical or even nutritional context to the sport or its athletes through your brand. While a store doesn’t have to act as a primary news source, this provides another avenue for entering the conversation with valuable information.

Infographic showing nutritional information behind brand products

Source: velvetmade via 99designs by Vista

25. Incorporate sports into email newsletter campaigns

Email newsletters are more than simple updates—they mirror personal correspondence. In this way, an email newsletter is a perfect space for conversational copy that references current topics like sports events.

26. Create sports-themed video content

Sports, like most popular culture, provide a relevant topic to frame social media video content around. With video, you can take viewers on a floor tour, showing how your store is setting up for the event. Or you might make a funny skit, like an employee pep talk treated like a team huddle. Through personality and humor, these videos showcase the people behind your brand.

Looping animation of a soccer player falling

Source: Studio Ochi via 99designs by Vista

27. Participate in social media conversations about the event

The best way to participate in the passionate discussions about sports is to do so directly. While posting original content tends to get the most attention in social media marketing, contributing comments on other posts is an underlooked method for getting eyes on your brand. If the posts are particularly viral, garnering a lot of likes in the comment section will ensure your brand account rises to the top of the discourse.

Store advertising ideas for sports events

28. Advertise during the event

The most direct way to increase store traffic during a sports event is to launch a creative ad campaign through the event itself, either with televised commercials or ads within the event venue. While famous events are beyond the scope of a small business, go for the next best thing—advertise with a local sports bar where patrons will gather to watch the game.

29. Promote seasonal sports discounts

A timely discount is one of the simplest ways to capitalize on an upcoming sports event. Although a store can simply advertise marked down prices, giving customers a small activity to do, like clipping a coupon or using a creative promo code, generates the feeling that they’ve “earned” access through a special ticket.

Poster design for a gym membership sale

Source: Piximco via 99designs by Vista

30. Partner with relevant businesses for cross promotion

Sports provide unique opportunities for cross promotion through strategic partnerships with other businesses. For example, a grocery store might want to spotlight a local brewery to set up a tasting table for gameday beverages. Or a café might showcase sports-themed artwork for sale by local artists on its wall.

31. Launch sports-themed print ad campaigns

A sports-themed print advertising campaign can promote relevant athletic products, or it may just involve working sports references into promotions for unrelated products. In either case, aspirational ads compelling viewers to reach their full potential fit in both with athletics and with any product that improves purchasers’ lives.

Print poster design for a fitness course

Source: Héctor Ovidio Miranda via 99designs by Vista

32. Launch a gift-with-purchase promotion

A gift-with-purchase promotion provides an obvious incentive for customers to purchase something. For branded sports-themed gifts, consider common promotional products spectators might use, like drink koozies, travel bags, bottle openers, totes, pennant flags or whistles.

33. Host sports-related workshops or classes

It takes no shortage of skill and expertise to run a successful business in any industry. Store owners can share that expertise and enhance their reputation as a thought leader through a workshop or class. For sports-themed classes, a makeup brand could host a class on game-day warpaint makeup, whereas a wellness food brand could get the community together for a cooking class on healthy watch-party recipes.

34. Host a sports insider as a speaker

For bookstores, hospitality spaces, cafés or bars where speaker events commonly occur, an upcoming athletic event is an opportunity to book a sports insider as a speaker. Even when it comes to famous sports events, local sports professionals like journalists can be tapped for analysis. Because many sports fans passively consume sports commentary, hosting a speaker makes your store the channel for interactive commentary with a professional.

Illustration of a sports commentator with a microphone

Source: Dukecartoons via 99designs by Vista

35. Hire a sports mascot or sign flipper to stand outside the store

Mascots aren’t just for the playing field! Brick-and-mortar stores can hire mascots to promote the business to passing traffic. Because official team mascots are usually trademarked, an unrelated but similar mascot costume can still get the idea across (the knockoff quality can even play into the humor). Alternatively, consider hiring a sign flipper to wear sports related colors.

36. Sponsor a local sports event, team or league

Local events, like marathons and children’s leagues, regularly rely on sponsorships since they are often organized by volunteers. Not only does sponsoring events like these—through financial donations or useful products like food or apparel—promote your local business, it shows that you’re actively involved and giving back to the community.

Flyer design for a children’s baseball camp

Source: Rose ❋ via 99designs by Vista

37. Sponsor a sports news or podcast

During high profile sports events, sports news sites and podcasts naturally get traffic spikes. Channel that traffic to your own brand by sponsoring sports news content or paying for advertising on a sports news site or podcast.

38. Organize a charity donation tie-in

Sports events are a communal experience, which means it’s the perfect time to give back to the community. Businesses can launch a donation campaign linked to a sports event, like giving a certain percentage of sales of limited edition merchandise to a sports-related charity. Not only does this increase sales, it does so for the betterment of the world.

Store merchandising ideas for sports events

39. Rebrand your logo with a sports theme

Redesigning your logo with seasonal themes for different occasions, including sports events, is a small but impactful way to shake up your branding while linking the joy of sports to your identity. To avoid trademark conflicts, the new design can be generally related to the sport as a whole, incorporating graphics of specific equipment, generic athletes or anything else fans will immediately connect with the sport.

40. Create limited edition tie-in products

Limited time events are made for limited edition products. Gym equipment, specialty drinkware and even simple products like keychains or pens all provide a great basis for simple memorabilia. Like seasonal items, these promotional tie-ins generate a sense of rarity that encourages collection.

Label design for a sport beer brand

Source: cynemes via 99designs by Vista

41. Maintain a branded sports bracket

Sports brackets help spectators keep track of which teams or players have advanced in a long-running competition. Filling out this sheet provides a tangible way to participate in the event. And businesses can produce their own sports bracket with a branded design so customers will keep them in mind while following the action.

42. Create specialty menu items

For restaurants and bars, sports events can fuel creative themes for new, limited-time recipes. A well-designed table tent goes a long way in communicating that these are off-menu, one-of-a-kind dishes or cocktails.

43. Print custom stickers or pins

Shopping bag fillers are small gift items that you include with purchases. While it costs the store money to design and produce these, free gifts create a positive experience for customers. For sports-specific shopping bag fillers, branded stickers or pins encourage customers to wear their team loyalties on their sleeve and advertise the store in the process.

Illustrated sticker design with a cartoon golf ball character

Source: yyusopp via 99designs by Vista

44. Print limited edition shipping packaging

E-commerce brands or stores that involve a good deal of shipping can design custom packaging, such as boxes, mailers and/or packaging tape, in sports-themed designs. This not only transforms your traditional packaging but enhances the unboxing experience for customers.

45. Sell commemorative t-shirts

For sports events that happen rarely, commemorative t-shirts provide wearable keepsakes — just like concert shirts show the wearer was at a particular tour. Even if these shirts use a general sports themed design, incorporating a date will bring the event to mind for years afterwards.

Fan t-shirt design for the Football World Cup

Source: ANDREAS STUDIO via 99designs by Vista

46. Print custom sports themed retail bags

Shopping bags may serve the practical function of bagging products, but they are also canvases for subtle advertising, displaying your store’s branding as shoppers carry their items around town. When combined with durable totes, a sports theme inspires customers to treat the bags as sports memorabilia and reuse them.

47. Design informational handouts

Attending any public event can involve no shortage of planning, especially when you have a big family to corral. Businesses can help their customers out with branded informational pamphlets or handouts at the register. For local events, a store might include a map showing parking spots/restrooms nearby or they might design a checklist of useful items to bring.

Island map illustration of an island with sports stadiums

Source: RON GRAPHIX via 99designs by Vista

48. Create weather-related items for outdoor sporting events

Outdoor sports events come with unpredictable weather that spectators sometimes forget to account for. So before they get stuck buying overpriced umbrellas, fans, sunglasses or visors from the venue, your business can help them plan ahead of time with your own branded weather merch.

49. Create branded spectator merch

Spectator merchandise, such as foam fingers, flags and signs, is often purchased on the spot at the venue for marked up prices. Instead, small businesses can offer their own, much more reasonably priced spectator merchandise. Not only does this increase revenue, it encourages spectators to cheer on their favorite team while incidentally showcasing your branding.

Illustration showing spectators cheering on a football game

Source: ALBERTO JIMENEZ via 99designs by Vista

50. Print sports-themed gift certificates

Gift certificates are great canvases for custom designs celebrating ongoing sports events. Because gift certificates are often given to people who are not regular customers, a sporty design gives a first impression of your brand’s fun-loving personality.

Increase your store’s traffic with the next sports event

A sport event is a prime opportunity to connect with customers over a passionate hobby. Any business, whether big or small, sports-related or not, can face their competition through new and creative sports promotions. 

Between digital content, physical store rebrands, in-person games, direct advertising and merchandising and games, there are so many ways to increase traffic through the medium of sports. If you still haven’t found the right approach for your store, keep in mind that the main goal is to share in the communal bonding around the event. You may not always increase traffic directly or turn an immediate sale, but as long as you’ve started a conversation, you’re ahead of the game.