Ryder Cup is going full on digital with the coming together of cross-continent media partners, PGA of America, European Tour and NBC Sports Group. The Sports Techie community blog last wrote about NBC Golf and the launch of GOLFPASS together with Rory McIIroy. Fans over the pond and here in the U.S. can look forward to a dedicated website generating content for both Team USA and Team Europe. A new app will deliver the latest Ryder Cup golfing news while enhancing the user experience on the course and for those not lucky enough to attend this riveting three-day competition. The Sports Techie community blog loves how each European fan comes together as one support fanbase. American fans are quickly learning the ropes which should help provide a home course advantage at Whistling Straits, host of the 2020 Ryder Cup. Wisconsin will be the center of the golf universe Sept 25-27 and the three business amigos better the ready with innovative sports tech because the competition for fan eyeballs, like-minded sponsors and growing the game priorities has never been so fierce.
Long Standing Ryder Cup Appeal
The history of the Ryder Cup Matches began in 1927 (1926 was an exhibition match) when Samuel Ryder and his British mates took on the Americans at the Wentworth Club. Player’s receive no money for playing but sponsorship and television revue is now in the millions and growing. The biennial event has only been held across the pond outside of the UK twice.
The format has two teams of 12 playing a variety of matches including eight foursome matches, eight fourball matches and 12 singles matches. A match winner gains their team one point while a tie is worth half a point. The US team dominated play long enough that a change was made in 1979 to include European players.
Fast forward to 2019 and some questions arise. Is the Tiger Woods factor, or for that matter Brooks Koepka, marketable enough pieces to popularize the event to the mainstream American audience? Players like Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth don’t have that kind of drawing power. European players such as Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and McIlroy, along with Henrik Stensen and Justin Rose will certainly help draw in the zany European contingency of fans.
The Euros claimed victory in 2018 outside Paris with a bigtime win versus USA further extending their home dominance over the past three decades. Team U.S. represents well at home and has taken two of the last three Ryder Cups hosted on American land. Wisconsin native Steve Stricker is the USA Captain and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington captains team Europe.
One major positive to note is Wisconsin’s Central time zone is not an issue here for fans but it will be across Europe.
Expect Advanced Technologies
“This is an important next step in expanding the global reach of the Ryder Cup,” said Jeff Price, Chief Commercial Officer, PGA of America. “This relationship will allow us to deliver the best possible digital, social and emerging technology experiences to fans around the globe. It will also add significant value for global brands that want to participate in this iconic sporting event as part of their marketing mix.”
I was thinking about what different kinds of sports technology might be in the works for the upcoming Ryder Cup. No doubt about it, Fox Sports and CBS Sports have both taken the sports tech enhanced, golf broadcast lead by a longshot.
At the recent 101st PGA Championship, CBS installed 200 hundred HD cameras around the course, they used cutting edge motion capture technologies to help broadcasters analyze golfers hip and shoulder rotation, and club head speeds, as well as showing amazing aerial tracing views shot from a blimp flying high overhead.
Integrating the Top Tracer product has been standard for most all golf broadcasts and NBC is no except because it displays the trajectory of tee shots and the ball flight viewers can see on their screens.
We’ve seen the use of drones, microphones throughout the course and a plethora of other technologies that measure metrics shown as graphics during golf telecasts.
The coolest new feature I saw during the recent U.S. Open at Pebble Beach won by American Gary Woodland was the new FOX Sports putting graphic overlay that calculated the best putt direction and angle based on the position of the ball, the slope of the green and distance to the hole.
High standards have been set for NBC Sports but can they deliver for Whistling Straits as well as the next two Ryder Cup’s awarded to the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy in 2022 and Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York in 2024?
“As one of the biggest events on the global stage, the Ryder Cup inspires great pride and is a highlight every two years of NBC Sports’ golf calendar,” said Will McIntosh, Executive Vice President, Digital & Sports Consumer Businesses, NBC Sports Group. “Building upon our comprehensive news and event coverage, NBC Sports Digital now will super-serve fans with engaging content and interactivity across multiple digital platforms, tapping into the passion NBC Sports and Sky Sports have for this unique event.”
The Ryder Cup TV compound at the Le Golf National in France during the Sept, 2018 tournament was touted as one of the biggest sports broadcasts in the world. More than 1,000 people were used to generate the event. Ryder Cup used 150 cameras (50 less than the US Open) course wide to produce outstanding footage. Five studios were setup around the course to ensure better onsite expert analysis with more player and fan engagement.
Ryder Cup Access All Areas | Ep. 10 | The TV Compound
Digital Fan Experience
Social is of course a heavy duty buzz word. Social media means Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with perhaps some Snapchat mixed in for the millennials and GenZ users but I doubt Snap’s will be all that important with European Tour decision makers.
“The 2018 Ryder Cup in France saw more than 22 billion social media impressions across the week – the highest in the event’s history – and this exciting partnership with two of our key partners will allow us to expand the reach of our award-winning social and digital content to even greater numbers,” said Rufus Hack, Chief Content Officer, European Tour. “It is fantastic news for fans who follow the contest avidly and also for the many global brands who are associated with one of the world’s greatest sporting occasions.”
Hewlett Packer Enterprises (HPE) kept Ryder Cup fans connected in 2018. More than 51,000 spectators packed Le Golf National daily over the week requiring a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) network capable of handing all that required smartphone bandwidth. Was it the biggest BYOD network in sports of 2018 as claimed? I doubt it but it sounds nice and who cares anyways, as long as digital devices could log on to the internet via WIFI and function as needed, you have yourself a winning provider.
‘Interactive’ seems to be the buzzword of the year along with ‘immersive’ but fans don’t care about those terms as long as the maps, schedules and optimized routes to take are accessible and function as promised. Zonal overlays via the Aruba Platform is a pretty way of saying localization on the course whether you are at the first tee, the final hole or the merchandise shop.
Is 5G a possibility for 2020, Comcast? HPE set the standard pretty high in 2018 for the fan experience so what’s next?
The PGA of America and the European Tour will jointly direct the sales process through their Global Partner Program. NBC Sports promises to develop and execute customized digital activations for interested partners. Original digital content for these Ryder Cup platforms will come from by all three organizations, in addition to NBC Sports’ cohorts at Sky Sports, both owned by Comcast.
PGA of AMERICA Championships’ Digital Platforms
Beginning next year, NBC Sports Digital is on charge of developing, powering and operating all back-end service to three of the PGA of America’s championship branded websites, which include the PGA Championship, KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and the PGA Professional Championship. Future PGA branded sites and their related products include:
- 102nd PGA Championship, TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, May 10-17, 2020
- KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor, Mich., May 18-24, 2020
- 53rd PGA Professional Championship, Barton Creek Golf Resort, Austin, April 26-29, 2020
Sports Techie, I have some free ideas for NBC Sports to think about with regards to the Ryder Cup telecast and beyond.
First one is, I love how TNT and ESPN bring in former players for their NBA telecasts. Listening to Ernie, Shaq, Charles and Kenny is nice, same with Reggie Miller and Chris Webber, but they get stale week-to-week. Same can be said with the likes of recently retired Bob Costas and now Mike Tirico. NBC loves to bring their ‘A’ announcers to every single event be that the Kentucky Derby, NASCAR and the Premier League. I wish they would change up the SNF announcing team yesterday without adding Tirico. For Pete’s sake, he is also their golf guy. What is next, taking over for Costas during the Tokyo Olympic Games. Wait, he is already doing that. Please stop this bad habit. Bring in golfing Legends of the game to take over the booth for some of the Ryder Cup holes. Perhaps even have a contest via the app and invite the winning fans from both sides to the onsite studios to hear about their perspectives on the players, course and fan experiences.
Second, without a doubt, the augmented reality (AR) component of the app has a ton of fresh marketing and branding opportunities waiting to be fleshed out and activated. If you want me to consult for pay I would like to help out.
Third, your social media team at NBC Sports is average at best. Live tweeting is where it is at and plenty of it. Not canned tweets every several hours sprinkled in with info about the leaders and some celebrity retweets. More real-time Ryder Cup tweets are a no-brainer upgrade because fans use this social channel as a second or third screen and often times a primary screen. SNF social is pretty good at this but not the rest of NBC Sports.
Finally, make the app more interactive in terms of adding playable fantasy sports, actual sport betting in states that allow it (most likely the European Tour understand this need if the PGA of America does not) and add more real-time fan prediction opportunities with cool prizes.
Golf is not mainstream but the Ryder Cup and the four PGA Majors are creeping their way towards that status thanks to sports tech innovations.
Here is to NBC Sports taking the sports technology torch up a level in 2020 for the Ryder Cup.
Go Team USA!
See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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