🔥Upside Chat: Scott Gutterman, SVP of Digital Operations, PGA Tour.
This week we have the honor to interview Scott Gutterman, SVP of Digital Operations at the PGA Tour.
Here is a picture of the PGA TOUR’s augmented reality (AR) experience on mobile devices for fans attending events. This AR experience is powered by Quintar.
📝Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his background, his role at the PGA Tour, the importance of technology to the PGA Tour to help improve the fan experience. We also talked about technologies built by the PGA Tour such as the AR experience built in association with Quintar. Then we discussed the NFT and metaverse space.
Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Scott:
On his background:
“ I've been here at the PGA Tour for 17 years. I had a long career before I joined the PGA Tour. I actually started in financial services in the early nineties building companies’ inventory systems, where I was coding COBOL and CICS and a bunch of other things for banking all around the world”.
On how he ended up joining the PGA Tour:
“I ran a group of developers and an office in Atlanta for a company called Viant where I really made the leap over from financial services into media and entertainment. I began working on projects for several organizations including Turner Broadcasting and we worked on something for Cartoon Network”.
“It was actually one of the first online trading card implementations. And then I got involved in sports through nascar.com where I helped bring the nascar.com property over to help start the Turner Sports Properties back in 2000. And I got connected through those connections and I eventually ended up here at the PGA Tour in 2005 and I have been here ever since”.
On the importance of technologies for the PGA Tour to help improve the fans’ experience:
“Technology is at the forefront of everything that we do. Technology drives the fan engagement. And it drives fan engagement across different age groups and different fan bases”.
“In the early days, when you thought of golf, you thought of technologies that went into the equipment that the players played with (…) In my early days here, there used to be a lot of discussion about” how do we get our players and our fans closer together?”
“And these are in the pre social media days. And then social media came along and it really gave our players a way to engage directly with our fans while they're both on the course and not on the course.
On the new generation of players who leverage social media to engage with their fans:
“And that really came in with a generation of players that learned how to use social media platforms, and learned how to use the PGA tour platforms that we were building to really reach out to our fans. And I think that's what continues to help grow our fan base today. And now they're even closer”.
“Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and several others, came up in the generation like I did, which is where you didn't start out that way. But now you have Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau, who are fully engaged, and have grown through the sport and their own use of social media. So they know how to engage with our fans and I think that's only made the sport stronger”.
On the importance of sports performance technologies (e.g. Whoop..) among pro golfers:
“I think it's become very important and it really stretches from what you were talking about: the Whoop band. I am actually wearing a Whoop band and I have been wearing one for about three years now as our players adopted it. You'll see Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, and a few others, wearing it in competition”.
“They're using that data that they get from competitions (…) We've done work with Whoop, where the guys are going back and looking at their heart rate when they have big shots to make. They're looking to lower their heart rate when they have to make a big shot to win an event. So they are looking at breathing techniques and how those breathing techniques are reflected in the data that they gather. That's just one way that they use the data”.
“And for every event on the PGA tour, we have our ShotLink System, which gathers roughly 70 data points for every shot hit on the course. And our players over the years have started to use that data. Some of the players have even employed some of their own data analysts to take a look at how they play on a course, either between rounds or between events or year over year so that they can go back and say “Based on the position of the flag, this is really where I should be hitting it, because I think that's where I've had the most success”.
On their program called Every Shot Live:
“Two, three years ago now, we started a program called Every Shot Live at the PLAYERS Championship where we are capturing every single shot, and streaming it live for our fans from the time the first tee shot is hit to the very last putt. And for the first time this year, what we did is we created an internal website for our players. It allow them to see the live streaming video, so basically videos that that they want to watch”.
And secondly, we worked with a company called WSC Sports, to create what's called a speed round for every player after their round is completed. So within 15 minutes of their round being completed, on that same website available to the players, is a cutdown of their entire round. So basically these are every shot from their round, compressed to about 15 minutes”.
“There are about 130 players, maybe a little bit more at the PLAYERS Championship. And we know that the vast majority of them between their rounds were working with their coaches and looking at how they played between rounds to improve their performance the next day”.
“I think a lot of the players now are looking at their sleeping habits, and they are looking at multiple ways to improve those between rounds. They're looking at sleep and diet as much as they look at physical performance and their stretching and preparation ahead of a round. So I think this generation is more and more in tune to that because that's really something that Tiger Woods really pioneered across the Tour”.
On the pro golfers that are the most tech savvy:
“There are two guys that I've had some interactions with, and that I think, are very, very savvy, but I would say most of this generation on the tour is pretty tech savvy. Rory McIlroy is definitely one of them. He is looking at everything that he needs between his rounds. Justin Thomas is another player that comes to mind. These are the guys that you see wearing the Whoop bands. Those guys are definitely two of the most tech savvy guys that we have on the tour. Max Homa is another one that I think is very astute and who is looking at data all the time”.
On the AR fan experiences that they built with Quintar:
“So this is an idea that we had going back when we saw the announcement of ARKit on iOS five or six years ago, and we were like “Okay, how can we use this to improve our fan experience on site?”.
“But what we said is, look, why don't we give fans the opportunity to take out their phone and just aim it down the fairway, and be told who the golfers are through their camera (..) What you can also do is pan with your phone and you can see the shot trails above you, and it goes right to where the ball lands. And then what it gives you is the data, how far that ball has been hit, and how much further that ball has to go into the hole”.
“And then it's the same thing when you get up to the green. It'll show you once it lands on the green, how far the ball is from the hole and, and what their next shot looks like. So with Quintar, that’s what we've been able to do”.
“What Quintar did is they came up with a technology essentially that goes out and maps the course from a fan’s point of view. And then they map that against our fully mapped courses because we map every single hole with radar and know pretty much down to the centimeter almost where the ball is on every hole. We combine those two things together. What it does is enables a fan to stand anywhere around that hole, whether it's behind a tee box looking down or from a green looking out or from the side looking across. And it enables a fan basically to do that and be able to see the ball land no matter where it is”.
On the metaverse and NFT space and what the PGA Tour intends to announce:
“To me, Web 3.0 and metaverse are almost two different things because I think you can go off and people have been going off and doing proto metaverse type implementations without NFTs and crypto (…) You'll find NFTs in crypto as part of the metaverse as an element of the metaverse or component of the metaverse but it still needs some time to develop. The PGA Tour will be announcing some relationships here probably later this fall, maybe just after the new year, about some things that we are going to do with NFTs and crypto”.
“I think for our approach, it's going to be largely based around building communities, and building ownership, and driving communities in a way to create opportunities for our fans so that if you come to the PLAYERS Championship, if you buy a PLAYERS Championship one year, you may get an NFT. That is part of your ticketing experience to show that you were there when Rory McIlroy won the 2019 PLAYERS Championship. It is kind of a keepsake. It may give you access to special hospitality, areas, or it may be in fact like your season ticket for years to come. So I think there's a way there for NFTs to be a part of a larger program (…) I think it'll be closer to a loyalty or a fan program”.
“I think there's still a long ways to go when it comes to the metaverse, but I think we're at that point where all of us in sports are beginning to prepare for what that environment will look like when our fans will want to consume our sport in those places”.
On the types of metaverse experiences that they offer today:
“You look at our partnership with 2K and the 2K PGA tour, a video game that we have. In that game, we literally have hundreds of thousands of people playing every single month. They're spending time there. They have their own avatars. They dress those avatars themselves or however they want. They're able to buy and sell in a virtual economy there with virtual currency”.
“So when we have the PLAYERS Championship here and the professional golfers are playing on that course, in the 2K game, there is a virtual PLAYERS Championship going on that fans are playing in for virtual currency, heightened currency that week. So we have a virtual version of our event going on. So to me it's kind of our version of Roblox or Minecraft or things like that. It's a community and people spend a lot of time there. They can design and build their own golf courses”.
“And then the other part for us, we set the tone on this in golf many, many years ago with a product that we call TOURCast, which we relaunched back in 2020, which is on pgatour.com, our own platforms, which is a 3D Digital twin of every shot and every part of the course that you can follow. And our fans are there spending hours every week, observing the shots and the events and the highlights and the things that are going on there. But it's a 3D course that you can explore just like you would in a video game”.
“And I think we're going to continue to build on that. So it's literally a digital twin of what we do week in and week out, and you can see all the best shots there. So I think those things for us are are precursors to where someday I think a larger metaverse play will be”.
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