Tomorrow sees this year’s Open Golf Championship take place at Royal Liverpool. Starting on Thursday it sees the world’s top golfers, including Tiger Woods after a lengthly absence through injury, come to our shores for one of the most testing events on the golfing calendar.
Golf has been a sport that has embraced digital advances over the past few years, at the top end at least. You can find most players on Twitter (more so than Facebook) and each major event looks to engage with the thousands of fans who come through the gates, as well as the millions who tune in on TV.
Kevin Bain is the R&A’s Digital Manager who is based most of the time in the beautiful town of St. Andrews (the home my family originates from). Last week I was delighted that Kevin could take some time out of his hectic diary to speak to me about what their plans are for this years event.
One of the biggest investments that was trialled last year and is now being expanded upon is the installation of wifi points around the course. 350 access points have now been installed giving Wi-Fi coverage on every grandstand.
The test took place at Muirfield where the whole course had fibre optic cable installed with 200 access points. It was promoted in venue and allowed for video streaming as well as scoring and other information. It was 30k people use the facility with a peak of 3.5k concurrent users.
One of the most interesting findings was around usage – they expected video streaming to be the key driver but it turned out that GPS tracking of players on the course was the most used feature, showing who was teeing off from where and what their current score was.
iBeacons are another development which has been trialled in a small way before and are now being tested on a larger scale. In the US they are being utilised around many sports stadiums and they are proving to be a useful way in which to communicate with people around the course.
There will be a welcome message at the pay gate at the course and one of the incentives is being entered into a prize draw for tickets for next years Open. Certainly one that many keen golf fans attending will be open to. Also, at the 3rd hole there will trial messaging informing fans about which players are coming through. Something useful that will help them decide at which point they want to be to see they’re favourite players.
#OpenMoments was launched one week out from the tournament. They started asking fans about what their favourite Open moments are and they will then use they’re archive of images and video’s to show fans those that have been most mentioned. More than 100 videos were ready to go when they launched.
— The Open (@The_Open) July 4, 2014
They’re also been helping to promote the #OpenCountdown from the host course, Royal Liverpool, with both campaigns aimed at boosting awareness of the event and excitement amongst golf fans.
They are also working with a company I know well, Storystream. This new social wall will allow fans to see all the conversations in one place from players, fans and official accounts from the organisers. They’re are already some great images and videos available on there. So make sure you check out social.theopen.com
If you’ve been in the Liverpool are you may well have seen a bus going around with advertising on it for the tournament. To win tickets to go to the golf all fans had to do if they spotted it was to tweet in a picture of it and use the hashtag #OpenBus to win.
There are also the more usual digital features for fans to use such as the Open app to get scores, radio commentary, video stream, etc. Plus you can find out everything you need to know across Facebook and Twitter. This year has seen another Twitter first for the event as they have launched a Japanese language feed. This helps them tap into the 3rd largest golf market in the world, behind the US and UK.
Thanks to Kevin for taking the time out to let us know about their plans. I’m lucky enough to be going this week to find out more about how it looks from behind-the-scenes. Look out for the tweets from @danielmclaren.