Mobile Key to PGA TOUR’s Record Online Engagement Growth

The PGA TOUR is bringing the game closer to fans than ever before. They recently launched the “Live Under Par” brand campaign with a goal of extending their reach not only to golf’s core fan base, but to also appeal to a new and diverse generation of fans by celebrating content from both inside and outside the ropes that is created by players, fans and the PGA TOUR. Mobile engagement is a key strategy for nurturing and developing this important base.

In 2016, the TOUR transformed its mobile device policy, allowing fans to capture and share photos and video at tournaments. This past May during THE PLAYERS Championship, the TOUR even undertook a user-generated content campaign, dubbed #Make17Scarier, that asked fans and followers to create scenes and filters around the 17thhole at TPC Sawgrass. We can expect to see more of this, as the TOUR continues to build its mobile platforms.

Craig Duncan, Venuetize’s Chief Revenue Officer sat down with Scott Gutterman, PGA TOUR VP of Digital Operations, and Ali Quinn, The TOUR’s product manager, to discuss the role of mobile technology in engaging fans and driving sponsorship activity.

CD: What can you tell us about PGA TOUR fans engaging through mobile during the 2018 season?

 SG: When we talk about mobile, we are talking about two channels, mobile apps and the mobile Web.  Different fans use each of these platforms, with the vast majority of casual fans using the mobile Web.

Our app is used regularly by our core fans. We’ve had well over five million downloads, but the more interesting metric is daily active users. The number of visits the app gets per user is two to three times higher, and time spent on the app is much more than the website. Users are visiting the app three, four, and five times daily. We’ve seen fantastic growth year-over-year.

AQ: The PGA TOUR app has become a central point for a larger initiative  – not just segmenting our fan base, but driving their experience at TOUR events and ensuring we get them to come back. We’re working to change the relationship from a passive scoring experience to a two-way communication.

Special offers – like $10 off in the merchandise tent – can be a great incentive to download and log into the app.  With the users’ information, we can then better market, increase retention, and attract new fans.

 CD: Apps definitely differ from a Web experience in a number of ways – from requiring a log-in to push messaging. Can you talk about the benefits of that?

AQ: Logging in gets you more services and we can use that data to get to know our fans so we can serve them better at events and throughout the larger TOUR ecosystem.

SG: Users who download the app go through a wizard that walks them through preferences for push notifications. And when they favorite players or provide other information, they get more relevant information pushed to them. For the PGA TOUR brand, being there at the top of the phone, providing notifications, is extremely important.  To keep the content relevant and exciting, we are digging deeper into rich push notifications that includes images and video.  We’re already starting to do this today, pushing short videos or images of a favorite player. Our longer vision is the fan’s phone becoming proactive, rather than reactive.

AQ: It is all abut two-way communication with our fans and guiding them throughout the experience.

CD: The TOUR has gone through a dramatic shift in terms of allowing fans to use mobile phones at TOUR events. What opportunities have opened up as a result in terms of sponsorship activation?

SG: We started letting fans use mobile devices at our events on a limited basis in 2011 and expanded the policy in 2016 allowing fans to capture and share photos and video at TOUR events. Today, it is clear that if a fan is on-site at a TOUR event for more than four hours, the best way to grow our fan base is through our fans sharing photos via social media.

AQ: We say “You’re courtside all the time at a TOUR event,” and its really true. The experience is so different that our fans get such great content. We’ve actually embraced user-generated content in our platform and our advertising campaigns.

SG: In terms of sponsorship opportunities, we have mobile phone sponsors throughout the app. Brands know we have the number one app in golf and that we reach a valuable fan demographic.  We treat our app the same way any retailer treats their app – throughout the fan journey, users are getting special offers related to our partners and we’re getting onsite activation through push messaging, so if a fan is walking past the Michelob Ultra Lounge or Grey Goose Lounge, they might get a push notification for a free drink or food discount.

AQ: Another example of a sponsor campaign that leveraged the Venuetize platform is the Firestone Fan Village, where anytime a fan entered, they received a Pennzoil coupon for $10 off an oil change. In the past, we’ve also created sponsored content with our partners, where fans received 10 percent off concessions if they use a MasterCard, for example.

CD: How will this experience evolve?

AQ: The goal is to automate personalization so when fans arrive on-site, they’ll automatically receive tailored selections to guide their experience. Today, when fans arrive on-site, they get an event guide, which is a homepage only available at the event.  It’s very helpful because it customizes the fan experience, so they can find what is relevant to them at the venue.

SG: And as they move around the event, their selections change based on proximity.

CD: Has the TOUR seen a correlation between embracing the mobile platform – and all of these great features – and attracting younger fans?

SG: We’re focused on marketing the app to younger fans and anecdotal data suggests that we’re definitely reaching and interacting with them.  Over the next year, we’re going to further leverage analytics to detail who is in the app. We are very interested in that but haven’t focused on it.

CD: AR and VR are continually discussed as future engagement technologies that fans desire and the golf industry has seen some early success with virtual games.  Do you believe this technology will play a larger role for the TOUR going in 2019 and beyond?

SG: We already offer 180-degree views in the app, and we were the first sports league to have a virtual reality app on the Facebook Oculus platform, including two years of live VR from THE PLAYERS Championship.  We believe Live VR has a lot of potential and we’ll see where the headset market goes next.

In terms of Augmented Reality, we rolled out a standalone PGA TOUR AR app and we’re the first sports leagues to apply live data to AR. We can project one of our signature holes and fans can watch live and see shot trails going around the hole. Fans can look at historical shot trails. There’s a real potential to further bring people into our events with that, and we’re excited about it.

On the course, AR allows fans to look200-300 yards down a fairway, aim their phone and see who is on the tee box and see where their balls lands.  There are some technical challenges to overcome for true, live, in-person location-based AR, but we’re working on making that happen. Eventually, we’ll want to integrate our AR capabilities into the main PGA TOUR app.

CD: What else can you share with us regarding what’s to come in 2019 for the TOUR?  Anything specific to mobile that fans should be on the lookout for?

AQ: You’ll see changes in the app coming next year in terms of utility. We’re very focused on how fans use mobile and the PGA TOUR app at events and new avenues to engage them – from  ticket sales, to push notifications, to managing the fan journey around the event.

SG: Navigation will also be a big improvement for our fans.  We’re always looking to improve how fans get around the event and find what is most relevant to them.

More than anything, we continue to market in order to drive awareness of the app, so fans understand what they can do with it.  Whether they are at an event, or watching on television, we want them to be aware of the different, rich experiences they can get with the app.

See Us at SEAT 2018!

We are looking forward to SEAT Dallas 2018 – coming up next week! And as a sponsor, we are especially excited about the agenda this year.  There are lots of great speakers and we look forward to hearing lessons learned and best practices from the many esteemed panelists.

Our COO and founder, Karri Zaremba, will participate in an exciting panel on Entertainment Districts and will share some best practices from Venuetize customer, The District Detroit. You can learn more about how we work with The District Detroit here.  You can also read about how the app works at Little Caesars Arena, home of the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings, here and here.

The District Detroit covers five neighborhoods, welcomes more than five million visitors annually to ten different sports and entertainment venues, and features nearly 8000 parking spaces.  And The District Detroit mobile app, developed by Venuetize, makes all of that and more available to visitors via their own device. Check out this exciting video to learn more about the $1.2B investment Olympia Entertainment has made in Detroit:

 

The panel will also include case studies from other professional and collegiate sports teams, including the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Notre Dame.

We are looking forward to hearing from the other sponsors and sports executives at SEAT. Please contact us at sales@venuetize.com if you’re interested in meeting up in Dallas. See you soon!

Top Seven Takeaways from THE PLAYERS

Venuetize works with the PGA TOUR and last week members of our team hosted clients at THE PLAYERS, which took place at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Below are our team’s top seven takeaways from this great event.

  1. THE PLAYERS is an ideal event to entertain clients, partners and employees on a reasonable budget. The event is highly accessible when you consider the overall costs (event tickets, airfare, hotel, transportation, etc.) and the location of the event. There are entertainment options for everyone, including hitting golf balls onto a mini-replica of the 17th island green.
  2. The PGA TOUR has clearly succeeded in engaging a younger fan base, while at the same time still catering to their core demographic. Mobile engagement appears to be at the core of this strategy and was on full display at THE PLAYERS. Large digital boards could be seen throughout the golf course with fan pictures and selfies displayed for all to see with tasteful sponsorship backgrounds mixed in for activation. 
  3. You will be hard pressed to find a sporting event where for an $80 ticket you will get any closer to the action and the star athletes. Being 10 feet away from a pro golfer while they are teeing off or hitting out of trouble from the woods is a very unique and accessible entertainment experience. 
  4. (Shameless Venuetize plug alert!) – The PGA TOUR used geofence technology and their PGA TOUR mobile app to deliver a personalized and convenient experience for those attending the event. From mobile ticketing, to an interactive course map, to live player tracker and statistics, to expediting the (very busy) merchandise store line with mobile payments. We were also lucky enough to have PGA TOUR’s own Scott Gutterman, VP of Digital Operations, give Venuetize and some of our clients a sneak preview of some exciting Augmented Reality technology being tested at The PLAYERS for future TOUR events.
  5. Ingress and Egress continue to be a leading contributor to a fans overall satisfaction level associated with attending a sporting event. The TOUR clearly put a lot of thought and planning into this for THE PLAYERS, and partnered with Uber and Arby’s to deliver an integrated experience. Our people on the ground had high praise for what they experienced both going to and leaving the event at peak times.
  6. Whether playing golf or attending a PGA TOUR event like THE PLAYERS, the sport continues to stand the test of time as a top-notch way to spend quality time with clients, partners, and colleagues. The TOUR has also evolved with ‘the times’, by allowing mobile phones at TOUR events and also investing in the infrastructure to support the connected worker while at a golf tournament. No easy task when you consider the layout of your typical golf course and the importance of noise control that is unique to the sport.
  7. Final Takeaway: Whether you’re an avid golf fan, Gen Z or millennial looking to do something fun and different with friends, a business person entertaining clients, a family looking for a fun day outside together, or you are just looking for a great party, The PLAYERS should absolutely be on your entertainment bucket list. And when you go, don’t forget to bring your mobile companion in the PGA TOUR app.

Cheering on the Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts are moving on to Round 3 of the NHL Playoffs!

The Venuetize team was invited to cheer on our hometown hero – and customer – the Tampa Bay Lightning, during Game 2 of Round 2 of the NHL Playoffs. Lucky for us, the Lightning tied up the series, beating the Boston Bruins 4-2 at AMALIE Arena. We are so excited that they’ve won the series and are moving on in their quest for the Cup!

We had a blast! Our team was especially excited to see the Lightshow feature of our app in action. Check it out here. During the pregame show, when we saw all of those phones lit up around the arena, we felt pretty amazing about being part of the team that made that happen.

Bring on Round 3. We can’t wait to watch!

Check out some photos of our visit.

Witnessing History with LAFC

On April 29, Team Venuetize was lucky enough to be invited to take part in history by attending the inaugural home match at the Los Angeles Football Club’s newly-completed  Banc of California Stadium.

The stadium was built from the ground up for a connected fan experience. From the technology throughout the stadium, to the amazing amenities, every detail is focused on engaging the Club’s fans.

We enjoyed great views, an amazing time at various clubs and lounges in the stadium, including the Sunset Deck, which recreates the beaches of Malibu in downtown LA, and breathtaking action on the pitch. This great article in the LA Times and fantastic video from LAFC capture some of the spirit of the evening, including the winning goal, scored during the last two minutes of stoppage time.

Among the details that help fans experience the venue and stay connected to the club is the LAFC mobile app, powered by Venuetize. We were thrilled to see the Club marketing it throughout the day – and encouraging fans to use it for tickets, paying for food and merchandise, and to navigate the space.

Many many thanks to the team at the Los Angeles Football Club for inviting our team to share in this momentous occasion. Check out more pictures from our visit.

No Slowing Down Mobile and Data in Sports. You Can Bet On It!

We recently sat down with VP of Sports and Entertainment at Venuetize, Craig Duncan, who over the past month attended the Sports Data and Fan Engagement Summit and the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. Craig has responsibility for the Sports and Entertainment (S&E) vertical at Venuetize, and has over 12 years of experience working with leading S&E organizations on how to best leverage mobile, data and analytics to drive deeper levels of fan engagement, sponsorship activation, and business profitability.

What were your top takeaways from the sports data and fan engagement conferences you attended over the last month?

First, it’s a great time to be a sports fan. The diversification of how we can now consume sports, whether digital or live, and the increasing combination of both at the same time, gives fans so many more affordable and enjoyable options than ever before. Secondly, there are so many new and exciting technology companies out there focused on enhancing the fan experience. This also creates a challenge for S&E businesses, to build a strategy and partner ecosystem that can deliver for today, but also is open to integrate new technologies in this rapidly changing tech landscape. Finally, if you don’t think eSports and the legalization of sports gambling are here for the long run, I would respectfully say you are wrong!

 

What do you think is the most interesting metric that sports teams are currently garnering from mobile app data specifically?

The fact that some teams are seeing usage of their mobile app as the number one indicator of season ticket holder renewals (for highest users), and churn (for lowest users), is extremely noteworthy considering the impact that season ticket holders have on a sports team’s business overall.

How would you assess the S&E mobile landscape as a whole based on what you are seeing at these type of S&E industry events and from your experience overall?

We are at a very exciting time in the world of mobile engagement for the sports and entertainment industry. Just five years ago, the infrastructure and technologies that enable so many of the ways we engage fans in personalized and useful ways were not available. The technology advancements over the last five years have dramatically changed the way sports and entertainment organizations run their business. More and more S&E organizations are running their business with a mobile-first approach in terms of fan engagement and experience.

I think the PGA TOUR is a great example of this. Eight years ago, phones were not allowed at PGA TOUR events. In 2011, the TOUR started allowing phones in certain areas at tournaments. In 2017, they changed their device policy to allow fans to take photos and video of on-course action during tournament rounds, which of course opens up to sharing on social media and so much more. As a result, they’ve been able to draw in a much younger demographic to their sport overall, which in turn opens the door to significant business opportunities, including mobile content monetization and new opportunities with prospective and current corporate sponsorship partners. In addition, fans are using their mobile devices onsite at PGA TOUR events for everything from mobile ticketing and payments to digital autographs, and so much more.

This all said, I believe we are only now just beginning to see the impact mobile will ultimately have on the sports and entertainment industry. The best is yet to come!

What is your advice for a sports and entertainment business when it comes to defining their mobile strategy?

First and foremost – have one. It’s a common mistake I see that sports and entertainment organizations are so focused on the current season and the ‘here and now’, that they don’t take time to map out their mobile strategy and how it impacts their key stakeholders not only for the current season, but going out at least three years.

I also strongly recommend building a mobile strategy that is truly fan-centric first. It is easy to say, but much more difficult to actually adhere to, with pressure usually coming from above to show immediate ROI on a technology investment. If you deliver a mobile experience to the end user that makes their lives easier and more enjoyable, they will engage with your brand at much deeper levels. Once you’ve built this trust at the fan/consumer level, app downloads and usage will increase dramatically and the monetization opportunities will quickly follow, along with measureable ROI. Pulling this off requires involvement and executive sponsorship from the very top of the organization.

What was the most interesting topic from your viewpoint over the two events?

In my opinion, the single most interesting storyline across sports business for 2018 is the legalization of sports gambling. It is no longer a matter of if it will happen, but when. You could really get a feel for how much momentum this development has at both events. When the short term monetary impact is measured in billions, and it directly impacts fan engagement, venue experience and so much more, I just think it’s a fascinating storyline from so many angles. I’m excited to see the role technology will have when it comes to empowering fans to gamble on sports events regardless of where they are. The new regulations will be interesting to see as they roll out, with laws most likely varying by state, which will only complicate how the on-the-go consumer is able to wager outside of a brick and mortar sportsbook. Mobile will play a huge role, as will the analytics aspect – where brands will be able to derive an enormous amount of data from legal gambling activity. I expect to see this topic gain even more traction, and a more prominent place on the agenda of these events and others in the coming years.