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Bowling Center
Promotional Ideas
Updated on 2-13-2020

Only Successful Promotional Ideas are listed on this page. Give one a try and let us know how it works in your area.

(Of course, none of these ideas will work by just printing a flyer. Get out and look at your customers in the eye and explain the program to them and ask for their business)

The Incredible Birthday Party Project
The Incredible Birthday Party Project helps centers around the country deliver free birthday parties to needy children in their communities. Chris Mohrhardt, owner of Incredible Mo's in Traverse City Michigan created this program and it has been a huge success. This is an easy program that gets your center positive community exposure and more birthday parties. The promotion works by giving away 1 free birthday party for every 5-8 birthday parties sold. This could be given to a local Big Brothers Big Sisters or Boys & Girls Club, or just a local charity distribution center. Maybe even a church or daycare. Totally up to the bowling center. This type of program will get some positive press and maybe even a free article in the newspaper or radio.

From Butch and Donna at Pastime in Hastings NE
3-2-1 Blast Off. It has a catchy name and is easy to explain. I love this open play idea because it seems to me it doesn't "cheapen" your open play rate the way $1.50 bowling does. You charge $3.00 the first game, $2.00 the second game and $1.00 for all additional games. This is for each individual, you don't charge a party of three that want to bowl one game each that way. The neat thing is it keeps some pricing integrity and it gives an incentive to bowl more. If they stay and Bowl more, they will probably eat and drink a little more. People tell me the vast majority of casual open play Bowlers bowl just one or two games each. Let's get them to stay longer.

New Bowler Coached Leagues
I don’t remember where I first heard this, but I still believe it is probably the best method for finding new bowlers.  If you have open lanes late, (who doesn't’t these days) you make a flyer explaining this league, and then you go through your leagues and personally ask each bowler to try and find a team.  Explain this is a “new Bowler League”.  The existing league bowler that brings a new team will be the Captain and Coach and he or she will get to bowl in the new league for FREE.  When they ask friends to join, the most common objection is “I don’t know how to bowl and I’ll be embarrassed” or the season is too long.  Overcome the objection by making this a short season league and have your bowlers/recruiters explain that everyone else in the league is a new bowler and it is just a short, fun, learn to bowl league and I will be your coach.  Maybe you could even give the prospective Captain/Coaches a few free passes so they can get a practice session for the new bowlers before the first night of league.  If you have fun, you can join a regular league next season.  The key to success in forming this league is personally asking bowlers to find a team and following up with them the following weeks.  You can’t expect a piece of paper left on the score table to motivate people to go out and find new bowlers.  Who doesn’t have 2 or three friends that aren’t league bowlers?   Depending on your schedule I believe 3 or 4 man teams (with the captain as one member) is the right number, 5 man late leagues with new bowlers will probably run too late.  Just imagine how many new bowlers you can get if just 5-10% of your customers go out and find you 2 or 3 bowlers each.  This concept also works great with daytime Senior leagues as well. Remember seniors are the fastest growing demographic in the US and they need something to do in the daytime.  Use this to start up another senior day league on a day with open lanes.  


This Great and Fun promotion comes from Cynthia Thomas of Mission Bowl.  She wanted to create a league for first time bowlers.  Something short, easy and Fun.  She calls it “Crazy 8’s”.  The league gets 8 teams (4 person), bowls at 8 o’clock, lasts 8 weeks, she charges 8 bucks a night and 8 pins or more count as Strikes.  Her first league filled pretty quickly by asking open play bowlers and giving them a flyer and the league had a blast.  Her hope is to eventually move these new bowlers to traditional leagues and this is a great way to get them started. I have had at least 20 Proprietors call me to tell me they read this on our website and formed a league from it.

A twist on the Crazy 8’s league from John. A friend’s daughter asked about an idea for a fund-raiser league.  She volunteered for the United Way here in Lawrence and she wanted to do a fund raiser for the local Humane Society shelter.  I had just learned about the Crazy 8 League and I thought Dog Lover and then thought, dogs are K-9’s how about a Dog Lover K-9 League9 weeks, 9 bucks and 9 pins count as Strikes and 9 pounds of Dog Treats to the winning team.  The Bowling Center then donates $1.50 per bowler per week to the local Animal Shelter.  What town doesn’t have 50 dog lovers that could be talked into bowling with likeminded Dog Lovers?  I bet you could even get some free exposure in the local newspaper or AM radio station.  Help your community, our furry friends and at the same time increase exposure to our sport.


NEW FOR 2020

This idea came from Carol in Colorado Springs.  She wanted to increase her youth leagues which were not full across her center on Saturday mornings.  She had a few kids that had a younger brother or sister that were too young to bowl leagues and they got restless just sitting around on someone’s lap.  It is boring for little ones to try and sit still while others are bowling.  Carol decided to set up her Dragon Ramps on her open lanes and let the little ones bowl free if they have a big sister or brother in a league.  It is fun for the little ones, it gets them used to bowling every week, moms love it and it appears to help grow the youth leagues.  These kids will likely become youth league bowlers in a year or two.  She calls the program Little Brothers Little Sisters!!!

NEW FOR 2020

I went to the Topeka KS USBC Association Annual awards banquet and meeting.  I was blown away how nice and well attended it was.  The men and women worked together with the centers.  They awarded the High league average man and woman and inducted local bowling “greats” to their Hall Of Fame.  Bowling greats doesn’t just need to be best bowlers, they inducted an outstanding league secretary that recruited new bowlers for 35 years and an individual that took the time to coach youth Bowling and get kids excited about the game.  I would suggest everyone work to have a NICE USBC association meeting just before leagues start.  Men, Women, and the center working together, and having fun too.

One of the more creative new ideas came from a customer in Eastern Missouri. He wanted to start a new 15 week “Banker/Bank teller League” in January.  A young gal that worked for the bowling center said she had an idea and he let her run with it.  She printed up the bank league flyer with all the details, but instead of mailing them out, this is what she did.  She drove through every bank and satellite bank drive thru window in town.  She put the flyer in the canister and pushed send and then drove off.  She did the same exact thing the following week.  The third week she called each branch and asked to speak to someone at the drive-thru window.  Then she asked them if they had received the bowling league flyers and asked if they had a team formed.  They all remembered the flyer and to make a long story short, they got 10 teams and the league expanded to 14 teams and followed up with a summer session also.  

From Vickie at Gladstone Bowl
Vickie runs a weekly promotion on one of her rare slow nights in the fall where she charges open play bowlers a penny a pin.  If a bowler shoots a 169 game you charge them $1.69 for the game.  We have talked about calling it the Penny a Pin Challenge.  You could try and add an incentive to get higher scores by adding a one time prize of a free t-shirt for a 200 game.  Something like “I Shot 200 at Gladstone Bowl”.  You would get some advertising and shirts are only about $6.25.  Larry at RoyalCrest looked at this promotion and it gave him another idea in a different direction.  On his deal, when you bowl 3 games at prime time full price, you get a gift certificate for a penny for every pin you knock over.  If you have a 421 series you get a gift card for $4.21 that must be used in the following week.

Curtis in Peabody Kansas told me about an open play/beer promotion he started with great success.  His beer distributor had been asking him to run a “.99 cent Natural Light Special” on one of his slow nights.  He finally said he did it and that it was awesome.  I asked him how many Natural Lites he sold and he said 6.  I didn’t think that sounded very good but he explained he sold $200.00 more of his regular beer and by the third week of the special, he had a waiting list at 9:30 on Thursday night for lanes.  He said people came in for the special and maybe one guy in the group drank Natty’s but the rest of the guys ordered their regular beer.

From Bob at Retro Bowl (LADIES NIGHT)
Bob went to a non-bowling marketing seminar in KC and the basic theme was “you have to give something away to get something in return”.  He didn’t really agree with the concept but he decided to give one of their ideas a try.  They had mentioned ladies night, so Bob decided to take a night they didn’t have any leagues and he ran a “Cosmic Bowling” special where ladies got free bowling and rental shoes.  The first few weeks were awful but eventually, a few younger women started showing up.  Not long after the ladies started taking advantage of the special, you can guess what happened: the guys started showing up.  Before long they were showing up in massive numbers making Tuesday’s his best grossing night of the week.  He said his bowling center is the hip place to be in north Kansas City on Tuesday night for the 18-30 crowd.

From Ray at West Acres in Wichita (THE TATTOO LEAGUE)
Ray shared with us a league he started that is very similar to the old “Get a Ball” league but instead of getting a ball, you get a certificate for a tattoo.  He went to a local tattoo parlor and arranged for a special price for tattoos.  Since he was buying 30 tattoos, he got the $200.00 level for $125.00 each.  Next he promoted the league in house (mostly Cosmic customers that they noticed had Tattoos) and got a summer league started and he covered his cost of the tattoo in the weekly league fee.  At the end of the league, the bowlers got their certificate for the free $200.00 tattoo.  As a side benefit, the manager of the tattoo parlor said over half the customers upgraded to a higher prices tattoo so he came out on the deal real well also.  The league was so popular that he has continued to run these short season leagues over and over again and they have grown in size.  When I told my wife about this league she thought it was a tacky idea but about a month later she read an article in People magazine that said over 50% of US women between the ages of 20 and 40 have at least one tattoo.  This is a very big potential market.  You can finish the deal with a “Show and Tell” party 6 weeks after the league is over where the bowlers return for a party where they show off their new ink to the other league members.  A side benefit of this league is these fun loving people seem to enjoy a few beers as well. Another customer that I told about this league told me that when she went to the tattoo parlor, the owner actually got a team together and bowled in the league with his new customers.


From Derek Frazier at Seneca Bowl in Wichita (10 or 12 week business package)
Derek gave me this summer open play idea.  He had a program where he went to different businesses and sold them a 10 or 12 week package that the business would use in the summer.  The package would cost around $300.00.  The company purchasing the package would get a lane every Wednesday night of the summer for them to use as they wish.  The center would provide rental shoes, 2 hours of bowling and a pitcher of pop and put the company’s logo on a table tent or on the scorer overhead.  The company could give these bowling packages to employees or good customers.  For example: Wal Mart stores, banks and McDonalds usually have a program where they have an employee of the month.  They could issue the bowling pass to each winning employee to take their friends or family for a night out bowling together.  Doctors, lawyers or Bankers could issue these to good customers.  If an eye Doctor has a family of three that sees him for glasses, what a nice gesture to offer the family a night together at the local bowling center.  The employee or family that gets the pass doesn’t have to spend a dime, but I bet they will.  Selling these packages takes some time and professionalism (maybe a short video-see ours) but remember, each package you sell is $300.00 and 10 to 12 weeks of traffic to your center. Make this program a part of your corporate package when you go to sell corporate events or go to see them to sponser a team.

From John at Jayhawk Bowling Supply
I got this idea from an article I read in a Bowling Magazine but I can’t find it anymore.  The story was about a guy that owned a bowling center and had a son that bowled on his local High School team.  One Sunday morning, his son’s best friend who was also on the high school team came in practice.  The owner asked where is son was as they were almost always together.  The young man said he bowled badly in the last high school meet and he just thought he needed some extra practice.  The father didn’t have much going on so he asked the young guy if he had a mailing list of his best buddies on his cell phone.  The kid said sure, I have my 5 best friend list and another list that had several more.  The dad asked him to try something.  He got him to text his friends that he was bowling and to come to the center if they didn’t have anything going on.  Within an hour, 12 or 13 of his buddies where in the center.  I don’t know exactly what this means except we need to tap into this technology.  One thought is next time you want to help an organization out with a fundraiser; you could try a “bowling textathon”.  Kids love this type of thing, that’s how they communicate today.  You could give the kids on a bowling or softball team or church group a group of lanes.  Each kid would have his lane and he would start texting his friends to come in and bowl in his fundraiser.  When his friends showed up, they would start bowling and text their friends.  At the end of the timeslot, you would donate half of the lineage generated to the group.  This could be the ultimate pyramid scheme with awesome potential.  I am not sure how to tap into this but there has to be a way to offer gift certificates or free passes to customers that text their friends and get them to join them for the fun.


From Loretta in Oklahoma
This is an idea that may be a little controversial and some of you may not want to do this but it works for Loretta and I feel she may be the best small town proprietor I know.  Every fall when they start their leagues, she requires her key and semi key employees to bowl in every league that is not full.  If a league is short a team, five employees fill that team and bowl in the league (they don’t have to pay) until they find a replacement.  If they are short two individuals, they fill those spots as well.  The advantages are many.  You don’t have any odd numbered leagues where teams bowl unopposed, it force teaches employees to recruit new bowlers and you will recruit new bowlers.  Don’t let your leagues deteriorate further.  Just think of the additional revenue you will get if every year, 5 of your staffers fill an extra 3 or 4 bowlers per league session.    

From a center in Eastern Kansas
This center came up with an idea for a “Bowling Scramble”.  They had a customer that said the golf course in town had a fun golf format.  They had a scramble night where golfers would just show up if they could for the weekly event and get randomly put in a foursome.  Each foursome would play together for the night and everyone would play their own ball.  Each team would take the lowest 9 hole score any of the members had on the front and their best score any of them shot on the back nine to give them an 18 hole total for the night.  The winning team got some prize money.  This bowling center modified the format for their bowlers.  They picked a summer night when they didn’t have a league and called a bunch of bowlers with the rules.  There are no set teams, you just show up when you can.  When its time to start bowling, they put everyone name in a hat and draw for teams.  They do 3-4 member teams depending on how many show up.  Each team bowls together but only the high single score each game gets counted toward the team series.  They charge $15.00 per bowler a night and keeps $9.00 for lineage and rest goes to the prize fund.  The top two teams for the night get a pay out.  The first few weeks it was kind of slow but after about 5 weeks, he was full across all 10 lanes sometimes with 4 to a lane.

Chippers in Colorado and Retro in KC
These centers (and some others) have taken Cosmic Bowling to new levels with live bands.  They recruit local bands to perform on a stage over the lanes.  A picture is worth a 1000 words but an action video clip tells the whole story.  They look for country bands, 70’s 80’s and 90’s cover bands and in college towns go with some alternative bands.  Many of the better bands have their own following that will guarantee crowds.

From Steve Sempeck in Elkhorn NE
Many people have package deals but Steve has experimented with different time lengths and package options and has now settled on some offerings that are really working well. I wanted to add this to my list of favorite promotions as I strongly believe this is the best way to sell bowling to families and small groups.  The biggest obstacle is retraining your staff.  When a family comes in to bowl and asks how much does it cost, instead of pointing to the pricing menu board, they need to answer “bowling is $3.00 and shoes are $2.00 but by far our best deal is our all-inclusive 90 minute package deal for $29.95.  It includes shoes, a pitcher of pop, a tub of popcorn and all you can bowl in 90 minutes”.  90 minutes is the key.  An hour doesn’t usually allow a family of four or five to finish a game by the time they find their house balls and put on their rental shoes.  Two hours is usually too long for families with children: it’s hard to keep kids attention on anything for 2 hours.  Movies usually last 90 minutes, but by the time you buy your tickets, popcorn and a drink a family of 4 can easily spend over $50.00.  When families and double dating couples consider their entertainment options, you need to make your center the best value in town.  Have a value package that competes with and beats your local movie house.  Bowling is better, instead of sitting on your fanny, everyone takes part.  If I had my own bowling center, I would charge an extra $5.00 for my package and I would give the customer a $1.00 bill to stop by McDonalds or the grocery store to rent a movie from Red Box.  Now you can offer an entire evening of entertainment; drinks, snacks, family entertainment on the lanes and a movie to finish the evening at home.  You have the whole night covered and the customer only needs to reach into the billfold one time.   


A Missouri customer told me about a program he has for League Bowlers that bowl in leagues that run over 30 weeks.  When a bowler pays in full for all league fees by the 4th week, the center gives him a gift certificate for $75.00 to be used anywhere in the center except the Pro Shop.  The bowler can use the gift card for open play or food and drinks, items you have fairly good margins on.  You get your money up front but maybe the biggest benefit is that bowler comes in to bowl for the last 25 plus weeks with the same $25.00 bucks in his pocket that he always has and doesn’t have to pay for bowling.  They will tend to spend more money on food and drinks the rest of the year.

This is a great promotion to overcome the problem of poor bowling center attendance during the fall when High School football is attracting all the attention.  It comes again from Curtis at Peabody Kansas and he wanted to make his center the place to be after the football games ended.  He came up with “The Fifth Quarter”.  He runs “Cosmic” but instead of having a two hour session (you never know exactly when the game will finish or when they will get back from road games),  he charges a small cover fee and then “five quarters” for rental shoes, a game of bowling, large drinks and hot dogs.  His center is now the place to go after the game is over and has a waiting list most Friday nights.  Parents, players, band members; everyone wants to be around their friends and talk about the game

I ran into one of Lawrence’s longtime Bowler’s, now senior citizen age and I asked if he was still Bowling.  He said he had to quit because his hip would hurt for two days after his league day.  He said “I wish they had special two game leagues for older seniors”  I think I would be fine if I could just bowl two games but that third one wears me out.  Do we really need to bowl three games just because we always have?  I have some customers that do short 2 game leagues for teachers at 4:00 that finish in time for the regular leagues at 6:30.  You can even run two game leagues at 9PM and have folks finished by 10:30.  There is a new trend in golf to adapt golf courses so that the course can be made in to six hole loops so that people can play 6 or 12 holes instead of 18.  People today just don’t always have time to play 18 holes or even 9.  If golf can adapt Bowling can to.  Go to www.worldgolf.com/column/12-hole-golf-courses-11475.htm learn how Golf is trying to adapt to today’s busy lifestyles.

Consider running your Kids Bowl Free program a few evenings a week.  When you run it during the days only, most of the kids will either walk to the center by themselves or have a babysitter bring them since so many Moms have a day job.  If you offer it during the evenings, parents and grandparents may bring the kids and they have wallets and billfolds with cash.  They will likely spend money on a few other items like food, drinks and arcades.

All of the previous promotions have been for ideas that did not involve items you had to buy from Jayhawk.  Now it is time for a shameless plug.  Try the Dragon Bowling Ramps for Kids from Jayhawk.  We are very pleased to be the manufacturer of this revenue generating product that makes bowling more fun for new bowlers in the 2-5 year old age group.  Centers that have these Dragon Ramps tell us that families come in more often and Mother’s ask for them by name.  Kids love Dragons and Dinosaurs and they love these ramps that are made especially for them.  Not only do they make it more fun, they are more durable than metal ramps and safer too.  They are not quite as tall, have a wider and more stable base, they are easy to move around and they don’t have any sharp metal edges or welds.  They are available in 3 exciting colors including our newest Neon Red that Glows in the dark.  Make your center more fun for our youngest customers by ordering your Dragon Ball Ramps today.

This is something I just dreamed up playing off the old Quarter Mania Open Play Promotion. Why not try it in a League Format. Bowl one Quarter of the Year (13 weeks). Bowl at Quarter till 9 (8:45) or Quarter till 8 whatever. $8.25 Cover linage plus $1.25 high game pot. Everybody throws in a $1.25 and high handicap game for the night gets the pot. $1.25 popcorn, $1.25 rental shoes, $2.25 beer and anything else you see fit. You can even follow up with a Old School Quarters Game in the bar after bowling is over. Check Wikipedia for "Official" rules.

NEW FOR 2020

This a great idea from BowlMor.  They ran a contest asking bowlers to post FaceBook and YouTube videos on why they LOVE their Bowling Center.  Some folks got very creative and others brought in friends to help record their videos.  They post them and their friends see them and they in turn share with all their friends.  It is an awesome idea to get publicity about your Bowling center. Your customers will actually help promote your center.  You should offer an award of Cash or Free Bowling for a year and their choice of any Bowling ball for the best video of the year.

Check out our contact page if you have any questions or if you would like for us to send you a complete Jayhawk Maintenance and/or Pro Shop Equipment Catalog and price list. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.






Jayhawk Bowling Supply and Equipment, Inc.
355 North Iowa Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
(785) 842-3237