How PGA TOUR Innovates With Emerging Tech

In this exclusive interview, PGA TOUR’s Travis Tremblath deep dives into how data and technology are empowering the organization to deliver every shot to every fan.

How PGA TOUR Innovates With Emerging Tech

by Giselle Abramovich

Posted on 02-01-2020

For PGA TOUR’s Travis Trembath, who is VP of fan engagement, reaching golf enthusiasts on all of the different channels and platforms they are consuming content is one of his team’s big bets in 2020.

Indeed, Trembath’s team is focusing on guiding people down an “individualized fan journey,” across all touch points, whether that’s in-app, via television advertising and programming, or with voice and augmented reality.

In this exclusive interview, Trembath details how data and technology are empowering PGA TOUR to deliver every shot and every highlight to every fan, no matter where they are.

Please tell us what you do.

I focus on a couple things for the PGA TOUR. One [of my remits is] understanding who our fans and prospective fans are using data and analytics. And then the second big area is building one-to-one relationships with our fans using data and analytics and figuring out how we take each fan down an individualized fan journey.

What’s the consumer trend that’ll most impact experiences that you deliver over the next year?

I think the biggest trend is going to be continued personalization. How do we deliver a personalized experience for our fans and customers? And it’s not a new trend, obviously. It has been around for a while. But the data and technology are obviously there to deliver that personalized experienced for each fan, and they’re going to continue to demand that personalized experience.

Our fans want to be able to dictate their own experience and curate it. And so we’re really focused on guiding people down that individualized fan journey. Our PGA TOUR app, for example, uses location-based services and personalized targeted messaging. We’ve also got another product that we’re launching in January called TOUR Pulse, which is a feed-based platform within our app that delivers content and video highlights based on fan-selected players. The ultimate goal is to deliver every shot and every highlight to every fan, no matter where they are.

What emerging technologies are you keeping an eye on and why?

There’s a couple of areas that I’m focused on. In the next 12 to 24 months, we’re going to see a big advance in the ability to dynamically serve television ads to customers and to fans. The linear TV world is catching up with where we’re already at from a digital perspective. The television manufacturers and the cable companies are sitting on mountains and mountains of data. They know everything that passes through the glass of the television and the cable box.

As an industry, we’re now thinking, how do we use that data to be able to deliver a more personalized and customized experience? That’s certainly a big trend that I think would help deliver a much better experience for customers and fans, a more personalized experience, and a way to be more targeted with your advertising for marketers.

Have you been experimenting with any emerging technology this year?

Voice search and augmented reality are big in the sports world and will continue to provide us with new ways to really engage our fans. We have an augmented reality app currently where we’ve selected some of our most important holes and created this really cool experience where fans are able to, from home, watch how each player plays that hole and see shot trails, which is pretty cool.

We were also one of the first sports leagues on Amazon Echo, where we see a lot of potential for new ways to engage our fans in innovative ways.

What’s the biggest challenge you face today?

When you look at how our fans are consuming our sport, we’re at a very pivotal moment right now where a big chunk of our consumption is still happening on linear television, but you’re seeing more and more migration toward streaming OTT products, and digital and social consumption. Fans are following the sport in new ways. We’re at a stage right now where we have to win in the old world and in the new world in order to be successful.

It’s largely a generational divide in terms of how folks are consuming our content. The key and the challenge for us is: How do we innovate in all those channels to really be successful and win? And then add to that the need to evaluate whether we’re successful, and the need for cross-channel measurement.

Another challenge is the increase in regulation around data and consumers’ reluctance to be personally identified. It’s part of the world we live in, and who can blame consumers after there have been so many high-profile data breaches. … As marketers, it’s pivotal that we be able to continue to collect data and identify who our fans are. And there is a demand or a desire by consumers to get this personalized experience. But there’s this reluctance to provide marketers with their data.

And so, those two things are in conflict. The challenge for us as marketers is: How do you make sure that when you are collecting data that you’re using it in a responsible way and taking privacy and security very seriously? We don’t want to burn bridges with consumers.

What is your team’s big bet in 2020?

For us, customer experience is absolutely pivotal. It’s at the top of the food chain. It’s our number one focus area. We’ll spend a lot of time in 2020 measuring whether the things we’re doing and the things we’re testing are working. We’re always measuring whether what we are delivering is working for the fans. We’ve moved away from sitting around a conference room and having people talk about whether they think something is good or not good. To us it’s all about whether the fan thinks it’s good.

Interesting. So what are your metrics for success?

We look at behavioral analytics, as well as qualitative research and our fans. We rely on them to tell us if we’re getting it right or not. In the public discourse there are people talking about golf, and even if they’re criticizing some of the things we do, that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes that can be a good thing.

When we’re looking at a campaign or even a social media message or a piece of digital content to gauge its effectiveness, we look at the behavioral analytics first and foremost. How much time are our fans spending on that content? Are they coming back to it?

Talk to me about digital transformation. What does it take to transform and modernize the organization in today’s day and age?

Digital transformation is really about how you take technology and integrate it into your business in a way that helps deliver a better customer experience. It’s about this mindset of experimenting and trying a lot of things and being nimble.

What advice would you give other marketers? How do you structure yourself organizationally to succeed?

The biggest key is that cultural mindset. Historically, for a lot of organizations, you’ve had one innovation group that’s in charge of coming up with all the new ideas. And when that’s just a handful of people in a vacuum trying to figure out how to change your business, it doesn’t work very well. So the key, in my opinion, is it’s got to be cultural, and innovation and transformation have to come from everywhere.

What gets you excited about coming to work every day?

When your job is to market Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, and Jordan Spieth, it’s hard not to love it. It doesn’t get any better than that. Besides that, another reason that it is so great to work at PGA TOUR is that we are all about giving back. It’s core to what we do. Every dollar that’s generated by our TOURnaments goes back to the communities that we operate in around the world. And so in addition to it being just a lot of fun to work in the golf industry and to talk about golf all day, there’s this tremendous sense of purpose.

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