Sacramento businesses light the beam to profit from Kings

Sacramento businesses light the beam to profit from Kings

A cast of “staff and fam” at New Helvetia Brewing stand in front of their own version of the Sacramento Kings’ beam, turned on for a demonstration Friday. Owner David Gull said the 24-foot LED strip was installed on a 20 foot pole earlier this month, in time for the Kings’ first playoff game against the Golden State Warriors.

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The Sacramento Kings aren’t the only ones lighting purple beams in the sky after game victories.

Upscale Japanese restaurant Kru in East Sacramento and craft beer brewery New Helvetia Brewing Co. in Land Park have purple beams that are becoming part of the experience of going to the establishments.

The owner of New Helvetia Brewing David Gull said embracing the Kings and having fun with its own purple beam has been good for business. The 24-foot LED strip that serves as a beam was installed on a 20-foot pole outside the brewing company on April 15 in time for the King’s first playoff game against the Golden State Warriors.

By the second playoff game, Gull said word had spread on social media about the “janky beam,” which overhangs the building’s roof slightly.

On the night of the third game, the small brewing company’s bar on Broadway was full of customers excited by the beam.

“We want people to celebrate the Kings with us at New Helvetia,” Gull said. “We’re in business to sell beer and hopefully the beam helps us do that.”

Plenty of beer has been sold each game night, but the Kings’ recent losses meant that customers went home without seeing the New Helvetia beam or the one piercing the sky over the arena.

How the beam has spread

Aligning with a winning team has been good business for a number of Sacramento establishments, from clothing stores that have added merchandise with the Kings name on it to bars that sell Kings themed drinks to sold-out hotels that are swapping out regular lights in public areas for purple ones..

Sports marketing experts say even more businesses will attempt to forge connections to Kings fans if the team keeps on winning and advances to future rounds of the playoffs.

“The deeper you go into the playoffs, and the closer you get to winning it all, the more excitement is created around the team,” said Adam Cook, an adjunct lecturer of sports administration at Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies.

He said more businesses “will then jump” to be part of the Kings’ fan connection.

New Helvetia Brewing Co. only unveiled its beam in time for the Kings first playoff game. Japanese restaurant Kru installed its indoor beam months ago, soon after the Kings started lighting up four purple lasers on top of Golden 1 Center after an October win over the Miami Heat.

The beam is next to Kru’s bar and lounge that features three televisions, but applause and cheers can also be heard in the restaurant dining area and sushi bar when the seven-foot LED display is turned on.

Kru’s beverage manager Jose Carrasco said the original idea was to celebrate the Kings for the staff, not as a business move to drive customers to the restaurant.

He noted that Kru chef and owner Billy Ngo is a longtime Kings fan and that sushi chefs watch games on their cellphones because they can’t see the televisions from their work perch.

Carrasco said Ngo himself and the sushi chefs get so excited that they often order the beam lit through a voice-activated Alexa control after a Kings win.

“We want to celebrate the Kings in a fun way,” he said.

Kru’s purple beam glows near the bar of the East Sacramento sushi restaurant during a brief demonstration on Wednesday.
Kru’s purple beam glows near the bar of the East Sacramento sushi restaurant during a brief demonstration on Wednesday. Nathaniel Levine [email protected]

Businesses draw customers with beams

Whatever the original intent of Kru’s beam, some customers at the bar during the Kings’ third playoff game against the Warriors said the beam had become part of the dining experience.

“Our reservation was at 6 and we are still here now at 9:40,” said Emily Cerras who came to Kru with friend Matt Byrd.

Cerras said she and Byrd stayed longer than they would have in the hope that the beam would be lit, even though it seemed unlikely that the Kings could catch up to the Warriors that night.

They left disappointed, but hopeful that the Kings would win another game and the beam would be lit again.

Byrd said the lighting of the beam is a symbol, not only that the Sacramento Kings can be champions, but also about the rise of Sacramento as a destination city.

Byrd knows first hand that the beam can attract customers. He is the owner of Darling Aviary, the bar-restaurant near Golden 1 Center. He said his establishment has been packed on Kings’ game nights.

“It wasn’t in our business plan,” he said of the extra fans, contrasting the losing Kings of prior years that left plenty of empty seats.

Byrd said a top seller at the bar has been the “Light The Beam,” a special alcoholic drink with a purple light up straw. He said customers order the drink while viewing the Kings’ beam from the rooftop deck of his bar-restaurant.

The purple theme has also taken over at the Embassy Suites Hotel. The two bars are bathed in purple lights and guests, many who are staying at the hotel to see a Kings games, are having a positive reaction, said Barbara Stannius, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

“It’s drawing people in, people want to feel they are part of the Kings experience,”she said.

If guests missed the themed decor during the playoff games , some of the bartenders was wearing a Kings uniform, Stannius said.

Fans that appreciated the festive atmosphere had already booked future nights in anticipation of the Kings’ success in the playoffs, she said.

It’s not surprising the hotel is touting a Kings connection. Stannius noted the hotel’s owner is John Kheriotis, a minority owner of the Kings.

Why the beam works? Marketing expert weighs in

Businesses connecting with Kings fans by incorporating purple into their decor arehelping themselves. Conor Henderson, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Oregon, said using team-associated colors gives fans positive feelings about that establishment.

As The Bee’s Maya Miller reported, “there’s something magical and unifying about that column of violet soaring up to the heavens.’’ Her April 12 story quoted Jesse Catlin, a professor of marketing at Sacramento State’s college of business: “It’s like a perfect recipe for creating something that people want to be a part of and share with others.”

For businesses, Henderson’s sports marketing research has looked at brands that have signage in major league baseball stadiums. His studies have compared brand signs that matched the home team’s uniform color scheme with signs that have not matched.

He said the research showed that brands that revised their color scheme to match the team had a more favorable rating.

Likewise, he said, the businesses using the King’s popular purple beam theme should also be receiving positive fan appeal.

He said fans are saying, “They’re with us, they’re on our side.”

Henderson, who grew up in Sacramento, drove eight hours from Oregon to attend the second playoff game at Golden One Center on Monday. As a lifelong Kings fan, he was willing to pay $750 for the ticket.

Viewing the advertisements at the arena through a marketing lens, he said one thing that surprised him at the game was the electric billboard ad inside the arena for Lagunitas Brewing, one of Kings officials sponsors. It was bright red, a color not associated with the purple beam or any of the team’s other colors of silver, black, and white.

But team colors or not, just any association with the Kings can be a positive business omen these days.

“We are seeing an increase in foot traffic since the Kings started winning,’ said Stephanie Boddalla, co-owner of the Identity Boutique in the Downtown Commons by Golden 1 Center.

That increase has meant the sale of a new item, hundreds of Kings T-shirts at $32 each in the last few months, said Boddalla.

She has set up a tent outside her store to sell the T-shirts and her store is also seeing sales of other clothes increase. Boddalla said a DJ is also outside her store during Kings’ home games, adding to the fun on those game days.

She said the good times should continue, “as long as the Kings keep on winning.”

This story was originally published April 26, 2023, 5:00 AM.

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Randy Diamond is a business reporter for The Sacramento Bee.