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Article published 31/07/2020

Tell us about The Open

For more than 150 years, the world's best players have faced the unrelenting challenge of links golf at The Open, golf's oldest and most international Championship.

What were the key reasons for creating a digital event?

Following the cancellation of The 149th Open due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The R&A was eager to provide a celebration of the Championship for its millions of fans. We wanted to ensure Open week still retained a prominent place in the sporting calendar, even when the Championship could not be physically played. The Open For The Ages enabled us to engage with fans and celebrate The Open in the week it was scheduled to take place, as well as delivering commercial value to our sponsors and broadcast partners.

Tell us about your digital event

Working with IMG Productions, we created a fictional Open Championship using archive footage from St Andrews dating back to 1970. This real footage was expertly edited and woven together with new commentary and modern graphics to create an immersive and compelling final-round narrative. The Open for The Ages was a ground-breaking content series that stood out in a crowded sports media landscape thanks to a unique blend of fan engagement and never-before-seen content production. The broadcast program was complimented by a new bespoke brand, and a full digital and social experience including a live leaderboard.

Did you come across any challenges?

The primary challenge was knitting together footage across five decades, from nine different Opens, in a way that made The Open For The Ages feel like a cohesive event. Over 1,000 hours of editing time was required, with a wide range of digital corrections made to footage. In addition, we faced the challenge of shaping our footage to fit a Championship narrative, resulting in a winner at the end of the broadcast. Furthermore, the challenges of putting all of this together whilst every member of the team was working from home was one that we had to tackle with wi-fi connection being a regular frustration.

What was your approach?

The approach was to try and create a fully immersive Championship experience which felt like an authentic golf tournament. The starting point was to define a winner, which was done using a model of historical data and a fan vote with more than 10,000 responses. From there we created a final round broadcast which provided twists and turns and featured the greatest golfers from the last 50 years playing against each other. The show was broadcast on linear TV globally including Sky Sports (UK) and Golf Channel (US) and was also simulcast to The Open’s digital channels. We used the Open’s social media channels to help tell the story, build the narrative and drive traffic to the streams.

The unique nature of the product and the interest from industry media meant that we were able to get the brand of The Open in front of new audiences.  We used the TV ad break spots digitally for in-house promotion, featuring Hospitality, The One Club & The Open Shop.

How did you promote your digital event?

To maximise reach of The Open for The Ages, the content series was distributed across owned, earned and partner media platforms pre, during and post the week of the 2020 Open Championship. 

The event was heavily promoted via The Open’s digital and social channels, while we also worked closely with over 100 media partners, syndicating a wide range of content. In the build up we used two exciting trailers as well as daily highlights Thursday-Saturday to help build the storylines which led us to the most exciting leaderboard possible going into Championship Sunday.

What did you measure and what were the results?

The Open For The Ages generated the most views for any content series outside of an actual Open Championship week. We also generated huge social media engagement (over 15 million impressions) while the final-round broadcast attracted over 1 million linear views and over 100k via digital/social channels. In addition, we were able to acquire additional customer contacts and drive increased hospitality and e-commerce revenue.

Was it a success?

Yes. In addition to the metrics referenced above, the event succeeded in the following respects:

  • Attracting positive media coverage for The Open and The R&A
  • Highlighting our desire to innovate and think outside the box
  • Providing commercial value to our partners and sponsors

Watch the Making Of The Open for The Ages >>

Watch the trailer for The Open for The Ages >>