Brad van Wely

Utilising data and digital innovations, IMG ARENA is seeking to accelerate the evolution of golf coverage and heighten audience engagement for the sport.

IMG ARENA’s Vice President, Brad van Wely, who is responsible for the firm’s product development and innovation programmes explained to InsiderSport how innovation is vital to evolving the way golf is consumed, as well as how it can help expand the audience of the sport.

InsiderSport: Are you able to tell us more about how IMG ARENA is innovating in the way golf is consumed?

Brad van Wely: IMG Arena’s long-term investment in the world’s two leading golf tours, the PGA tour and the European Tour, represents the biggest and most ambitious project the division has undertaken. IMG Arena is creating golf’s first, dedicated, betting Fastpath Data feed and supporting interactive digital products for bookmakers.

The real change comes from our exclusive golf event centre which will be the centrepiece of the comprehensive offering available to bookmakers. The event centre contains a full 360 degree view of what is happening with every player on every hole across all tournaments, ranging from immersive shot-by-shot 2D and 3D visualisations to detailed statistical information on every player in the field. It will contain thousands of new, in-play markets that represent a world first for betting on golf.

InsiderSport: Could you tell us how extensive data could help the sport of golf reach a new younger audience?

Brad van Wely: The best-in-breed golf event centre is designed to appeal to all manner of sports fans and demographics. We conducted extensive research which showed that the desire for a live betting product was highest amongst the iGeneration with 30% of all UK adults aged 18-24 stating wanted an in-play golf betting product. The cutting edge and interactive 2D and 3D golf hole visualisations will include positioning and in-play markets for every single player in the field.

IMG Arena will be showcasing engaging live streaming experiences across two par 3 holes at each tournament from both Tours within the dedicated betting golf event centre product. These dedicated, multi-camera streams are targeted towards bettors looking for a truly gamified experience where they can select from a massive array of new, in-play markets to live the experience from tee to green for all their favourite players and tournaments, at any time of the day.

Our dedicated digital team has spent many hours imagining a new user experience for fans that takes them to the heart of the action to ensure they have all the latest and most relevant information on everything from player stats to ball lies and course conditions at their fingertips. 

InsiderSport: When it comes to increasing the availability of golf data, what areas of the sport will you focus on, are you able to give examples of new insights that viewers will be able to enjoy? 

Brad van Wely: In addition to the above, IMG Arena is already looking well into the future to ensure these brand-new sets of data can be consumed in a visually appealing and intuitive experience that allows fans and bettors to understand the players and the sport on a deeper and more personalised level.

This will go live in 2020 and mark the first time in the European Tour’s history that such a rich and complete set of statistics and information will be captured on every player across all the key tournaments. Besides the most sought after statistics fans constantly search for at present, such as greens in regulation and driving accuracy, we are already thinking about the next generation of stats which will continue to expand upon the true strengths and weaknesses of the world’s best players, ranging from Rory McIlroy’s superb iron play, to Justin Rose’s touch around the greens. 

InsiderSport: How much can new levels of data help increase the commercial value of golf?

Brad van Wely: IMG Arena’s long term partnerships with both the PGA TOUR and European Tours will continually enhance the golf experience. The new, faster data sets that will be generated will create a world of never before seen, in-play betting opportunities for fans of the sport. The golf event centre will be a truly immersive experience which will allow audiences to consume the latest scores, stats and betting markets on every player, hole and key tournament across both Tours.

The broadcast product delivered by the Tours and their broadcast partners, whether via the traditional world feed or via new OTT formats, will benefit from a huge surge of interest generated from consumers. Brand new audiences which have previously been out of reach will be activated and drawn to the broadcast product as a companion to what they are seeing on their digital betting applications. Everyone involved with the sport will benefit, including the Tours, the players, the broadcasters, and the betting industry and – of course – the fans and spectators themselves. 

InsiderSport: Could you tell us more about how the additional data being made available in golf can increase the sports value as a betting product?

Brad van Wely: For many years golf has widely been recognised as having huge, yet untapped in-play betting potential. Due to the complexity and enormity of the technical and operational challenges associated with collecting sub-second data from remote golf courses located in diverse locations across the globe, the betting opportunity has never been able to stack up against the commercial realities.

In recent years, huge advancements in technology and a fantastic willingness from sports federations to come on this long and exciting journey has seen this start to become a reality. Golf is absolutely perfect for live betting. You have a tournament that contains thousands of shots, and each one throws up hundreds of immediate betting opportunities which can be quickly created and settled.

This rapid turnover mirrors exactly what we’ve seen in other sport formats popular with live betting. The introduction of distances on shots, for example, are levels of data which have never been seen before. Today, you can’t really get any live data which is accurate because audio visual broadcast is delivered on a delayed basis. Our data is delivered in real-time to ultra-low latency which operators can trust will deliver with relevant shot information and they can have the confidence to offer the full range of betting markets akin to other sports.

InsiderSport: How important could increasing betting markets on golf be to expanding the sports audience?

Brad van Wely: Golf is an extremely innovative sport that recognises the power deeper data and the introduction of in-play markets will play in attracting and further engaging fans to the sport. ‘The Match’, played between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson late last year in Las Vegas, provided an early snapshot of how vital a role the deeper data and betting markets that will soon become available on a much wider basis are set to play in encouraging fans to watch and engage in the 18-hole experience.

The match-play event drew strong broadcast audiences and revenues for bookies who only had a small selection of markets available in comparison to what will be available via IMG Arena once the new products are live to the public in early 2020. Many fans got drawn into the different interesting narratives that the event generated, such as the probability of Tiger outdriving Phil on a certain hole, or the chances of Phil landing his approach shot inside of Tiger’s on a par 4. There are very few limits to the positive impact this data can have in attracting and keeping more fans engaged in watching golf.