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.