The Whistling Straits has a huge experience in hosting major golf tournaments. It hosted:
- 2015 PGA Championship,
- 2010 PGA Championship,
- 2007 U.S. Senior Open,
- 2005 Palmer Cup,
- 2004 PGA Championship,
- 1999 Club Professional Championship.
Although the 2020 Ryder Cup will be only in September (September 22-27), I was curious how do the organizers are preparing for this major golf event.
I am very pleased that Guy Kinnings (Deputy CEO, Ryder Cup Director & Chief Commercial Officer at PGA European Tour) accepted my interview invitation.
What is the current status of the preparations for the 2020 Ryder Cup?
Our plans for The 2020 Ryder Cup are going well. With this year’s contest taking place in America, the PGA of America takes the lead role in terms of organising and running the event, which means our focus is more on the commercial side and working with our Captain Padraig Harrington on the playing side now the qualification campaign is underway.
Commercially, we have been working closely with the PGA of America to expand our worldwide partner and supplier programme and we will have some significant announcements over the coming months.
Meanwhile, we also continue to work on plans for both The 2022 and 2026 Ryder Cups in Italy and Ireland respectively as we seek to build on the success of the 2018 contest at Le Golf National in France, which was the most successful Ryder Cup to take place on European soil.
What are the main challenges of the organizers of the 2020 Ryder Cup?
The PGA of America organises The Ryder Cup when the contest is held in America, so they will take the lead role in running the event.
From our perspective, therefore, one of the main challenges is the travel arrangements for our team and our guest programme.
From a commercial perspective, we are always looking to grow revenues through closer collaboration with the PGA of America and the expansion of the worldwide partner and supplier programme.
Furthermore, last year we also set up the Ryder Cup Committee, comprising some of the most influential figures from sports business, with the aim of advising on the enhancement of the commercial and brand value of one of the world’s leading sporting events.
How much revenue do you expect from sponsorship, licensing, ticket sales, etc.?
We don’t disclose financial details, but our aim is to build on the strong foundations of our most successful Ryder Cup on European soil in 2018 and increase our revenue through the aforementioned partner and supplier programmes, as well as from our Official Licensees, through our merchandise programme and through the advisory work of the Ryder Cup Committee.
We are also working on the commercial programmes for The 2022 and 2026 Ryder Cups when the biennial contest is played on European soil.
What are you doing to achieve a high level of fan engagement on and off the golf course?
Fan engagement is a big part of The Ryder Cup, particularly because of the team format. We saw a significant increase in 2018 with more than 22billion social media impressions.
We have some talented people in our team who produce some fantastic content to help bring fans closer to the action and take them behind the scenes.
One of the most memorable examples of this was the ‘In bed with Moliwood’ video which went viral the morning after Europe’s victory at Le Golf National.
We also continually look at ways to enhance the fan experience on-site, including through the use of the latest technology, using the learnings of previous Ryder Cups and benchmarking with other leading global events.
How do you define the ‘smart golf course’ of a golf tournament?
The connected course is a platform that can connect everybody and everything in a very ubiquitous way, wherever you are on the golf course.
So, that maybe the spectators in terms of Wi-Fi access and engagement with our on-course content, or photographers/journalists and their ability to roam and work from anywhere on the course.
Then, if you take that a step further, it’s about intelligence. It could be used for a physical asset, such as a food and beverage queue monitoring system, understanding when bins are full, tracking buggies or even when greens might need further attention.
This is the concept of the ‘smart city’, connecting all the elements that make up the tournament venue, such as the player lounge, the media centre and the hospitality.
If we are creating a platform to connect them all and we’re deploying intelligence “at the edge”, that has the potential to provide significant benefits to our commercial family, to our operations people and event control, media, players and to everyone involved in the tournament.
We are not there yet, but our vision is to create the connected course and then to extend that further into a “smart city” concept.
We are looking to build up our capability over the coming years so that by the 2022 Ryder Cup we can deliver one of the most intelligent golf courses ever.
Will you come up with such services as the “My Moments” mobile app (powered by IBM)?
“My moments” is all about artificial intelligence in the broadcast production. So, you go from cameramen and producers doing manual editing of content to computers doing that work automatically.
What they do is look out for highlights or “moments of sentiment”, and artificial intelligence can then pick up these moments and string them together as a highlights package.
“My moments” lets spectators use this technology to create their own highlights package depending on their preferences.
We do intend to look at all areas of remote and automated production, auto-generated highlights packages, and better ways we can enhance our fan engagement through technology.
We are seeing some solutions through our innovation hub (= The European Tour Innovation Hub in cooperation with Tata Communications) programme where we have had some wonderful ideas submitted.
We don’t yet know which of these ideas will be the most successful in terms of the competition.
However, in March we will announce the winner and we will look to see how we can extend those ideas to the European Tour, and even the Ryder Cup.
Will you utilize Over-the-top (OTT) to boost interactivity with golf fans?
We would potentially consider using an OTT platform in the future. However, given the success of our broadcast rights, we don’t currently have many live rights available and don’t have a compelling need to have an in-house OTT product.
Nonetheless, the European Tour interacts with golf fans in many other ways and we don’t necessarily see an OTT platform as the only way to do that.
We have huge reach and engagement through our social platforms, while the recently launched eTour is one of several examples of how we continue to build a direct relationship with consumers on a global level.