Local bars are a hot spot during any sporting event, but in Chicago, the two make an especially important connection.
After winning two Stanley Cups in four seasons, the Blackhawks' official bar program has more than doubled in size to 217 locations since its launch in 2009. Danny Ecker of Crain's Chicago has taken a look at the bar business in the Windy City and analyzed how it's helping the Blackhawks.
Ecker found that while the bar programs are a strong reflection of the city's rapidly growing interest in the Blackhawks, this boom also illustrates the relationship between the team and its sister ventures under the Wirtz Corp. that allows Blackhawks ownership to make more money.
Wirtz Beverage has set up these local promotions all throughout the Chicagoland area, providing Blackhawks-themed decorations, pregame video, goal horns, etc., while the bars agree to show the game on at least half of their TVs. At the same time, the bars provide discounts on Wirtz products, including beer and hard alcohol.
"We leverage both sides," said Danny Wirtz, son of Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz and executive vice president at Wirtz Beverage. "The value of the Blackhawks brand brings a lot to the (bars). We ask them to meet us halfway in terms of their promotion of games and events, and that also means featuring Bud Light and other brands that Wirtz Beverage represents."
It's a win-win for both sides, as bars partnered with Wirtz see on average a 20 percent increase in guests than on other nights. The Blackhawks benefit from the additional revenue from the bars — which isn't subject to the NHL's revenue-sharing rules — as it helps cover the team's expenses; expenses the Blackhawks say cannot be covered just through ticket revenue, sponsorships and TV rights fees alone.