Compared to other sports, golf faces some unique challenges when it comes to fan engagement. While those watching a game of football can easily follow all the action via one broadcast or live feed, its considerably trickier for golf fans to stay on top of all the latest developments as they happen across the course. With so many players in action simultaneously and across different sections of the course, there is a plethora of discreet data points being created every second.
At this year’s BMW International Open, NTT DATA wanted to help fans get the data they deserve. Through the NTT DATA Data Experience, hosted on the BMW website, golf fans were able to keep on track of every drive, chip and putt. From birdie success rates to driving accuracy percentages, NTT DATA gave fans all the information they could want as they watched Viktor Hovland emerge victorious in Munich.
Delivering such a range of data in real-time, and in a manner which fans can easily engage with, was no simple task. Today, I’d like to share with you how the technology behind the scenes was able to deliver such a fantastic data experience for the fans.
How it was done
The process of collecting all of the latest data from across the course, and presenting it in an engaging way, required both technological innovation and collaboration. IMG Media were responsible for the collection of the data, using scouts with GPS trackers to physically follow the play and input every data point as it happened – from whether a player’s drive hit the fairway, the rough or a bunker to successful long putts and missed birdie opportunities. This was then turned into a data feed, which is traditionally sent to broadcasters or betting companies to inform their coverage of the event.
However, the data that comes through the feed isn’t particularly user friendly, and in its original form would not be of much use for golf fans. This is where NTT DATA came into the picture. In short, our role was to work closely with BMW to turn this data into something of value for the fans, using analytics to extract the most interesting data points and present them in a way that embellishes the fan experience.
To achieve this, a very low latency, highly-scalable JSON API offering was built to exactly pinpoint the data required for driving the web-based NTT DATA Experience. Separate worker processes were used for all data points, and as new data was fed into the NTT DATA Experience’s online platform from IMG Media, it triggered recalculations of all the statistics. In case of any complications, there was a complete back-up stack in a different data centre, meaning the NTT DATA Experience would continue delivering the real-time data and insights to fans, even during any downtime.
One of the principal aims during the process was to remove complexity. The IMG data feed required connection to many different endpoints, so the information that was shared with fans was simplified by using worker processes to analyse each bit of detail that came through and return this as individual player statistics and how they ranked across the field.
With so much data coming through, it was also imperative to find a way to prioritise the information that would be most informative and engaging for fans. By leveraging technology, NTT DATA was able to create a priority ranking system that could determine how newsworthy each incoming data point was, and then present this information in a user-friendly manner.
The fan experience
All of our efforts during the BMW International Open focused on providing the best possible experience for fans. After a year where fan engagement has had to adapt to testing circumstances, we wanted to find a way to bring golf fans closer to the sport they love. By making use of our expertise in data analytics, we were able to embellish the natural narrative of the tournament and add to the excitement for fans, either as a second screen experience or keeping them updated while they were out and about.
It was a pleasure to support BMW in delivering such a fantastic tournament, and it represents an exciting new step in a partnership that has already spanned a number of decades. I’d like to say a thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make the tournament such a success and I am looking forward to seeing our partnership grow even further in the years ahead.