After nearly four years as European Tour boss, Keith Pelley is still determined to bring change to the Tour and the sport itself. In one of his rare appearances outside of a golf audience, Pelley told delegates at the SportsPro Live 2019 conference last week (1st May) that his philosophy in the job remains as “ABC, always be changing” and that includes the Ryder Cup in Italy in 2026 – Ross Biddiscombe reports
Planned announcements about virtual reality advertising at the British Masters in Hillside, Lancashire, this week and also regarding disability golf will continue Pelley’s drive for innovation and inclusivity, he told the conference audience at London’s O2 Cineworld venue.
“It’s all about change,” said Pelley, “A few years ago, the buzzword was convergence, now it’s innovation and inclusivity, but innovation is nothing more than keep changing your business and I do believe you have to always be looking for change and improvement. Without that you risk the possibility of falling behind.”
However, he revealed that one thing he is not be changing is the targeting of the over 50s demographic and that would continue alongside a digital strategy aimed at younger and new audiences that has brought lots of praise and awards. “In the past, it was fashionable to say you were going after the 18-to-34s demo or the 25-to-49-year-olds while anything above 50 was thought to be too old. However, we own the 45-to-60-year-old demographic. Why would we say that’s too old? That’s the key demographic is in sport right now.”
Pelley said he is following research that states 73% of the UK’s wealth comes from people over 50; one out of five baby boomers is a millionaire; and 22% of the UK population is over 50 in the UK. “In 1990, there were 500 million people in the world over 60 and now there are a billion,” he said. “So, while we do target the younger demographic, we can’t forget our core. In the last two months, two of our partners told me they were also targeting the 50+ demographic – that’s the first time (I’ve ever heard that).”
In addition, Pelley now expects his new Ryder Cup czar Guy Kinnings to lead the Tour’s financial jewel in the crown into even more innovative territory. “The Ryder Cup in Paris was terrific, the atmosphere was spectacular. But, traditionally, we’ve organised the event on the side of our desk; our team was working on two jobs – the Ryder Cup and their European Tour work. It’s meant that for the last 30 years, the year after the Ryder Cup has been the worst year financially for the European Tour.”
But Pelley does not expect that to be the case for 2019. “We now have Guy and we’re building a (Ryder Cup) team. We want people to think as big as they can. We’re talking to the Italian government about how to showcase Rome, we want the opening ceremony in the Coliseum, for example. The Ryder Cup was the event of the year last month (at the BT Sport industry Awards) and I was incredibly proud of our team for that, but we can do so much more.”
The GolfSixes format – which will have its third iteration this year, this time in Portugal – also came in for plenty of praise as a vehicle for change from Pelley. “GolfSixes will grow and become a commonplace format in the pro and amateur worlds,” he predicted. “It’s different and more lively than a 72-hole tournament and, in the first two years, our audience for GolfSixes was 12 years younger than for a normal tournament, so it extended our reach and golf federations have begun to adopt (the format).
“The reason you do all this is to extend your reach and increase your engagement. And you do that to increase revenue because engagement is now a form of currency,” he said.
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