“Titties and beer” isn’t enough

Why your club NEEDS to have special events!

(NOTE: This story appears in the November 2023 issue of ED Magazine.)

At EXPO, three highly successful club operators and club promotions experts — Jason Mohney, Jerry Westlund and George Wilson — each explained why special events should be part of every club’s annual calendar, and offered tips on how to make those events a success.

T

he club owner’s work is never finished.

At the 2023 ED EXPO’s educational panel for club operators, “Event Promotions,” three distinguished speakers — Jason Mohney, Jerry Westlund and George Wilson— exchanged their informed perspectives on the necessity of ongoing events/promotions to invigorate even a club name with notoriety. Transcribed below and edited down for the written page is the three-part counsel for a club’s continued relevance. But don’t keel over just yet. All three call for more work on part of the club owner, but with the aide of an event team and outside help — whether it’s an in-house content creator, a 15-ton robot or a booked feature entertainer — you can’t procure the crowds alone, and especially today, you certainly can’t make them stay without something extraordinary on stage. 

Note: Jason Mohney is a club owner (Deja Vu/Larry Flynt’s Hustler Clubs) and the President of Go BEST!, an industry consulting company. Go BEST! is a one-stop shop for operators in the hospitality and nightlife industry, concentrating in the areas of design, audio visual solutions, marketing food and beverage, web optimization, cybersecurity, entertainment, coordination, hospitality training, POS, back-end controls and more.

Mohney: My advice begins with a roadmap for success. An event is not just about booking talent, putting together a couple of ads and hoping for the best, you have to have a strategy. That strategy has to start with an annual calendar of all of your events, then you’ve got to think about each one of those promotions. Who are you targeting? Who is going to give a shit about the event you’ve decided to host at the club? When is the event going to be? Where is the event going to be? And what’s going to drive the traffic to the building?

In beautiful Lansing, Michigan, we did the Prettiest Butthole Contest. To get people involved as early as possible, we put out promotions: ‘Book now online for a guaranteed seat.’ ‘The first five guests that show up are going to get a front row seat and a flashlight, so they can get a bird’s eye view of every butthole we’re going to show you in Lansing.’ These are the things that you have to think about. How are you going to get the ladies in, the contestants? If you’re going have a contest, you’ve got to have prize money. How much is it? If you don’t have a plan for how your entertainers are going to make money, your promotion is going to fail.

When you get about 90 days out from your event, then you have to give deadlines to your art department and to your printer, for your ads and your merchandise. An immersive promotion is most effective. Within six weeks, there’s a press release you’ve got to do. Do a press release for everything. If the news picks it up because it’s a slow news day, kudos to you! You got free press around your event. And then, if you’re going to do mass media buys, make sure you’re booking them for at least two weekends ahead of your event. That way, you have a chance to get it to all the people that actually go out on the weekend. Those are probably going to be the people that come to your event. 

“Don’t just post and pray. It takes work to be successful. You can’t just throw shit against the wall and see what sticks.”

 

– Jason Mohney

Understand the press cycle. You’ve got to have contracts if you’re going to have booked entertainment. You have to have check requests, if you’re going to purchase online marketing, mass media, a feature, porn star or celebrity booking. All the money you’re going to need for this event, you want to secure ahead of time. Travel: hotel rooms, cars, ride shares, airplanes, whatever it’s going to take to get everybody to your event. Assets and deliverables: these are all of the things you need for the promotion and for the marketing — pictures of the celebrity, any pre-made media you’re going to do in-house. 

Insert yourself into the conversation. What we had to do to create the butthole event is we started following everybody online that talked about butts, and then we started talking to all the people with butts. We created a buzz about the butthole event online, which made it viral, because all the quasi-influencers were now talking about the prettiest butthole that was going to be in Lansing, Michigan. We got a celebrity host for absolutely free, because the guy wanted to shoot in the club, live for his podcast, the Prettiest Butthole Competition. We had a live show coming from our live show that went global, and we didn’t have to pay for it. That’s free butthole advertising. Now we have the ‘World Famous Prettiest Butthole Competition.’ That’s trademarked. Would anybody like to use it? You can help me host a butthole competition. 

Marketing up to that is called a ‘drip’ or ‘teaser campaign,’ so you’re just trying to give little niblets of information, to get people curious enough to seek out more. Then you create a Facebook event, which people can continuously share and post on. Anybody that’s into pretty buttholes is now having a conversation on social media about your buttholes. Then you get to be creative with hashtags. They actually wouldn’t let us say ‘butthole’ on social media, so we had to have a ‘fishing hole’ contest. ‘Come on down and see the nicest “booty hole.’”

Of course, data mining is a huge asset for any business. Make sure that you’re collecting as many email addresses as you possibly can, so you can send some sort of email blast about the Prettiest Butthole Contest ahead of time. 

We also tried something new with the Butthole Contest with the company Unfiltrd, and it worked out fantastic. Utilizing other third party platforms to help you promote and sell tickets to events is a huge asset. We also showed live on Unfiltrd the Prettiest Butthole Contest, for which we had people sign up from as far away as India to watch. We got national and global publicity by using a third party app like Unfiltrd.

During the event, our content creator filmed everything. She gets in a day early and starts shooting teaser reels, and she stays up all night editing. During the live events, she shoots and gets content posted while the event is happening. And when she’s done, she goes back to her hotel room, and she stays up all night to create content as continued information, to keep people excited about, ‘all these fantastic buttholes you could have seen live in Lansing.’

Video vs. posts of photos: Photos are great, and they carry some information, but the videos have a better engagement rate. Social media should be both quality and quantity. The quantity keeps your information flowing. The quality adds to your engagement. The more engagement you have, the better chance that one of your slides, reels, stories will go viral.

After the event, we send out our content as post-press release: how great it was, how exciting it was. At the very least, we put it up on our websites, as a web gallery. We use it for the advertising for next year. If we’re going to do the Prettiest Butthole number two, then we’ve got to have that footage from the first Butthole Contest.

And really, what you’ve got to take away from everything I’ve just said is: Don’t just post and pray. It takes work to be successful. You can’t just throw shit against the wall and see what sticks.

Note: George Wilson is the Marketing Director of Sapphire in Las Vegas, one of the largest and most successful adult nightclubs in the entire world. Wilson has been in this industry about 20 years, working first for Dennis GeGori at Scores, and then for Peter Feinstein, at Sapphire, where he has been for the last 15 years.

Manack: A lot of people in the room may be from smaller markets that don’t have the competition that George Wilson, Marketing Director of Sapphire, faces here in Las Vegas, but many of you do. If you’re in a larger city, I guarantee you you’re not just competing with other adult clubs in your market, you’re competing with all the entertainment that’s available in your market.

George, why are special events so important, even for a club as successful as yours? 

Wilson: In Vegas, it’s never enough to just have a name. That will get old, and you never want to be referred to as ‘The club that used to be fun’ or ‘The club that used to have those fun events.’ When people come to Vegas, they want to do the newest, greatest everything. Creating that FOMO atmosphere is key, letting everybody know back home, ‘I’m here, and you’re not.’ That’s the reason we do these special events.

Manack: Because most of your clientele are actually not locals, what are some of the tactics that you utilize which have proved effective in reaching those people that aren’t even here?

Wilson: Pre-visit: we spend a lot of time on our web and social presence. One thing that has been really successful with us is finding influencers online that speak to our exact demographic. You want to find the ones that actually engage with their commenters, not the ‘posts and ghosts.’ And then all the regular things: email marketing. I’m sure everybody that works in the industry knows that Meta hates topless businesses, so you can’t sign up for a Meta business advertising account unless you find a creative way to work around that, like marketing from landing pages that aren’t your website. 

I grew up here in Vegas, and this town is built on relationships and word of mouth. Create relationships with the restaurants, the hotels, everybody that does business anywhere on and off the strip, so they talk about your club. We created programs with our affiliate network which make that happen once our customers are off the plane — when they ask the question at the concierge desk, when they ask at dinner, to the busboy: ‘Where do I go in Vegas? Where’s the best gentlemen’s club?’ — that they say our name every time.

Manack: Do you have any specific events that you could talk about that were particularly successful?

Wilson: Two that come to mind went viral worldwide. One of them was the robot strippers back in 2002. They are not robots, by any means, they are used car parts that an artist created in the UK with CCTB cameras for heads. They were not sexy at all. All they did was they had a module from a windshield wiper that made their bodies move, but we sat around as a group and came up with the idea that these were going to be robot strippers. One of the most important things we did was to give them both names: ‘R2 Double D’ and ‘Triple CPU.’ We created social media accounts, and we started tweeting as if we were them. We had teaser photos of them, and then we did a big unveiling media night a few days before the opening day. We had 50 different journalists from all over the world at the opening. I was shocked to see both Telemundo Local and Telemundo International show up. 

And then, just this last year, we brought in a 15-ton mechanical bot, which, again, was not sexy at all. We created an idea that we were going to have the world’s largest security guard at Sapphire. This thing took up the whole center area of the front entrance of the club, and, again, we gave it a name: ‘Mech “THE BOT” Johnson.’ The journalists took off with it. We got a call from Forbes, asking about the robot. Those two events were massive for us from a marketing standpoint.

Note: Jerry Westlund is the owner of the Pony Club chain, has venues across the country and is growing constantly. Westlund also hosts the EDI contest and has done so for several years. 

Westlund: For those of you that went to Jason’s party last night, when you walked up to the front door, what do you remember? The fucking camel. For those of you that didn’t go, there was a live camel tied up at the front door. We’ve done something similar with bouncy houses out front. We’ve done a petting zoo. I don’t know where you get a camel. I was really impressed. Matter of fact, I was trying to buy the camel later on at night. The guy wasn’t hearing it. Jason tells me he’s going to get me the camel. I don’t know how that’s gonna work out, but what I can tell you is creating a buzz is different than what it used to be. Titties and beer is what we do. Unfortunately, with what kids get on their phones nowadays — for all of you over the age of 30, we’re screwed. We’ve got to offer something else.

“Don’t be afraid to go outside the box. There’s no such thing as a dumb idea, unless you do nothing. That is a dumb idea — to do nothing and just wait for them to come in.”

 

– Jerry Westlund 

Let’s talk about special events. Yes, we are home of the famous biscuits and gravy wrestling. We do food wrestling every quarter. We’ve done the banana pudding wrestling, mac and cheese wrestling, spaghetti and meatball wrestling. And the way that works is whatever the item is they’re wrestling with, we’re selling to the customer to throw into the pit. It’s a dumb event, but you’d be shocked at how many people show up. 

I don’t do special events on Friday and Saturday night. If you don’t have a house full of warm bodies on Friday and Saturday nights, you’re in the wrong location. The name of events is to get butts in seats on a weeknight. 

Get everybody in on it. Don’t sit around just talking to your three shift managers. Sorry, shift managers, but you’ve got to get a bigger perspective. Your weekly meeting should have a representative of your DJs, a house mom and a member of your a bar staff. In some cases, an entertainer, too. All of my clubs do weekly meetings with somebody from each component within that club. That’s how these events work. Without that buying in, they won’t work. 

I don’t own a club in Vegas. Most of my clubs are in smaller and secondary markets. I don’t do the butthole contest, because you’ve got to know your audience. I can’t, in Georgia, Alabama, promote a butthole contest. I do feature entertainers. I like doing features. More importantly, my entertainers like features. They remind our girls what the entertainment value is of what we do. We also do carwash events some places. Don’t be afraid to go outside the box. There’s no such thing as a dumb idea, unless you do nothing. That is a dumb idea — to do nothing and just wait for them to come in.

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