Fan Friendly: How The PGA TOUR Executes Their Social Strategy

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With 49 different tournaments throughout the year, the PGA TOUR brings the best golf on the planet to fans all over North America and beyond. In order to match the elite talent on the course, the PGA TOUR has enlisted the help of an elite digital and social media team led by Vice President of Content Sloane Kelley.

“We have an amazing team. I was really fortunate to come into a group that had some extremely talented people that were already here and helping to kind of drive things and then we’ve grown a lot since I started.”

The members of the PGA TOUR’s digital team are mostly “jacks of all trades” on the front lines of the social media and web space. But like many larger digital teams in this space, they also have specialists focusing on video, photography, graphic design, and even foreign language content.

“We also have people that are focused on key international markets who can help us develop for our audience in South Korea, but we’re also developing content in other languages like Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. We also have an analytics practice and they are really key to our process keeping track of content performance in the moment.”

Just as the content strategy slightly changes for international demographics, it also slightly changes for the bigger tournaments on the PGA TOUR.

“There are definitely weeks like THE PLAYERS Championship, or the FedExCup Playoffs, or even the Presidents Cup where we know that, just by the nature of the event, there’s so much happening on site. Even if you look at our digital platforms the week of one of those events, we have so many ways to consume content.”

“So for us, those weeks make things a little bit busier. But it’s all for the goal of really getting the most types of content out there to our fans on the platforms where they want to consume it.”

For many of the bigger tournaments, like the ones that Kelley mentioned, the PGA TOUR digital team serves golf fans by offering the live broadcast of the event on several different platforms and in several different formats. The recent PLAYERS Championship, for example, could be seen on Facebook Watch, Twitter, and PGA TOUR LIVE as well as in Virtual Reality.

“Week to week,” Kelley states, “it’s just about getting the most interesting and entertaining content to our fans wherever they happen to be.”

To provide a professional-quality broadcast, Kelley and the other content creators on the team utilize tools like Telescope to create graphics and polling mechanisms on screen.

In the past, the PGA TOUR digital team has also utilized content created in conjunction with Team Infographics (TI) to supplement their live coverage of events. Kelley describes her experience working with TI and their tools.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVDdw3IDim7/?utm_source=ig_embed

“Team Infographics have been a tremendous partner and very helpful to us over the years. We’ve worked with them for static graphics templates that the team can easily kind of dig into and turn around content. On the animated front, we started doing a couple of things with some sponsors last year to add to our branded content strategy, which is also a part of what our team works on. I know that are our sponsors, we’re certainly very happy with the outcome there.”

Base on her experiences working with TI, Kelley would recommend them to any social media manager looking to stretch their capabilities.

“I think the great thing about using TI is particularly giving your team the ability to turn content around quickly, or maybe you don’t have a designer on staff that can handle that. It makes it very simple for folks that don’t have maybe the greatest photoshop skills in the world to go in and turn things around quickly that could help generate great engagement.”

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While providing a live look at tournaments is important, the digital team’s strategy goes much further beyond the live competition. Kelley and team also utilize their platforms to provide fun and engaging behind the scenes content with some of the elite talents and personalities in golf.

“One of the things that we’ve seen really resonate, particularly with more of our millennial audiences, is that ability to pull the camera back maybe from what you see inside the ropes in live competition and really dig into what makes the brand and our players sort of tick. A lot of that is interactions that they have together. You’ll see players interacting with fans or even doing some really special things with them.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjDTQnkDYH0/?hl=en&taken-by=pgatour

“I’m just kind of looking for those unique moments that we can capture and bring to life in different ways. Those types of moments that were able to capture and share with our fans really go a long way to building certainly fandom for the PGA TOUR, but also fandom for those players.”

In addition to telling the stories of the players, Kelley and team also try to tell the stories of the historic courses that house their events. Something that’s also fascinating about the PGA Tour’s approach to social media, in general, has been how well they get the fans involved in campaigns.

A perfect example of how they blend these two concepts their #Make17Scarier campaign from THE PLAYERS Championship this month. In a nutshell, the team asked fans and influencers for suggestions to make the iconic island green hole at TPC Sawgrass even more difficult. They found the results entertaining to say the least.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BikD73AD_Kp/

“We got back a time of amazing ideas and actual people went in and made their own drawings and graphics and we even had an elementary school that participated and kids were drawing on the 17th hole. Like on photos of it and adding sharks and stuff like that. And it was just really amazing to see the creativity from our fans come back like that.”

Overall, the campaign resulted in 68K engagements 4.6M impressions across channels with 40+ art submissions from the PGA TOUR’s audience.

Before she was building fandom and telling stories for golf’s best, Kelley was building fandoms for a variety of organizations, from restaurants to movie franchises, with BFG Communications in South Carolina from 2006 to 2013.

“It was a really big portfolio or a wide variety of clients that I was working with and then an opportunity popped up to join the tour’s digital team. And it just seemed like such a unique opportunity and it created a challenge, which is really kind of what fuels me: that ability to dig into an interesting question or something that a brand is trying to solve. The tour and all of the momentum and focus on digital-first philosophy was very attractive to me. It’s been an amazing journey ever since.”

Kelley quickly educated herself on the PGA TOUR and acclimated to the differences that come with switching from an agency to a sports organization.

“I’ve certainly had a lot to learn when I joined the PGA TOUR, related to the game itself and the history of the organization. Probably anyone coming from the agency world to this sort of a role would be in a similar situation. But I approached it almost like I had in the past with any of the new clients that the agency took on. I immersed myself in the brand and learned as much as I could, and talked to as many people as I could.”

Perhaps the best change that comes with this kind of transition has been Kelley being able to channel all her passion and creativity into a single brand as opposed to many.

“I think the really nice thing for me that was kind of refreshing was it was great to be able to focus on one brand. When you’re on the agency side, sometimes you’re working on a multitude of clients and you obviously want to give each one of them your all and you do your best to do that. But it’s nice to be able to spend all of your time just really kind of focused on one thing.”

As most social media professionals will tell you, the one constant in their field is change. Kelley advises any young professional hoping to reach a position like hers one day to embrace that moving forward.

“I would encourage people that are looking to get into this type of field just to be very open-minded. That’s something that I think we always look for, even as we’re bringing on new people, regardless of the stage of their career. Stay on top of all of the different platforms and how they’re evolving. As much as you can certainly keep an eye on what different leagues and sports teams are doing,  don’t be afraid to look outside of sports and take a look at other entertainment brands or even consumer packaged goods brands, whatever it might be, because there’s a lot of creative people out there that are trying to push the bounds and it can inspire you in ways that you wouldn’t have expected.”

For a better look at the PGA TOUR’s digital efforts, follow them @pgatour on Twitter and Instagram. You can also follow Sloane Kelley on Twitter @SloaneKelley.For more on how the tour’s digital team has built a social presence in multiple languages, check out this article we did last week on how American sport organizations have been doing just that.

*Team Infographics is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports