Have you ever heard of Seven League?
The company is recognized as “providing consulting and agency services to accelerate digital performance to the biggest names in sports” and has worked with everyone from the NBA and NFL to the Green Bay Packers and FC Barcelona. In 2021, Seven League will become the digital arm of IMG Media and will now be an integral part of golf due to the management company’s longstanding and renewed partnership with R&A.
“We are thrilled to expand our partnership with IMG and benefit from their expertise on a deeper level as we continue to evolve as an organization,” said Martin Slippers, CEO, R&A. “Enhancing our media and digital expertise, developing our partnership programme, ensuring our tournaments continue to lead globally, and diversifying our business are key to our long-term commercial success. Our goal is to ensure golf thrives 50 years from now and this partnership will help us unlock a new group full of opportunities.”
The relationship between R&A and IMG dates back to the Mark McCormack era, and for more than 50 years IMG has considered R&A to be one of its most prestigious clients. The two are now locked into an ambitious 10-year partnership that, starting this month, will see IMG offer Seven League-powered digital services, develop R&A production and content offerings as well as distribute international media rights.
said IMG Media president Adam Kelly, who has been with the company for 22 years. “As we’ve expanded to create a solution that really looks at the whole business from a fan perspective, how we interact with the audience, how we develop and build value.”
For the first time, IMG has included a team – the Seven League – to recruit dedicated R&A personnel to act as a resource and provide the bandwidth to “ship” the R&A strategy. An expanded partnership allows IMG and the Seven League to do the best they can, ensuring R&A focus on what he does best.
“From an RNA perspective, as we broaden and deepen the relationship with IMG, it allows us to leverage all of the enhanced expertise and capabilities and ultimately drive commercial success and commercial performance,” added Neil Armitt, Chief Commercial Officer, R&A. “It is our commercial performance and the proceeds that are generated that are used to fund our investment back into the development of the sport.”
R&A previously announced that it aims to invest $200 million in golf over a 10-year period from 2017-2026. For Kelly, not only working with a drug, but the sport itself makes the partnership all the more important.
“I think what’s interesting about positioning R&A as an organization is that they take responsibility for developing the game,” Kelly explained. “It’s not just about a quick return on their investment or otherwise, like some others are, it’s about building the game and building value for the sport itself.”
The emergence of LIV Golf, golf entertainment websites like Topgolf and PopStroke, and the growing number of online influencers are all examples pointing to an enduring golf scene, one that Kelly sees as ripe for newcomers.
“There’s always competition. I mean, this is an area that’s ripe for challenge, whether it’s on the championship side or the player side, everyone in the sport has to jog in order to keep up with the pace of change.” “But I see we’re in a golden age for sports. And in the battle for attention, this is the latest show on Netflix versus the metaverse versus anything else, you have to find the ability to cut through that noise. Live sports do that better than anything.”
So what can fans expect? Seven League has the ability to help improve products such as shot trackers or “live from the range” segments, as well as innovative new products. R&A is in active discussions in the virtual reality space and is looking at things like the VR Open, where users play one of the Open Championship courses, and mixing archive moments to give fans a chance to play a famous shot in VR.
With Endeavor Streaming now also in the mix, the direct-to-consumer concept will be an area of consideration for the future.
“I think it’s a long-term plan for us, as we’re certainly seeing the benefits of starting to go into direct consumer, but more of a universal kind of free service, rather than an immediate focus on subscription or payment,” explains Armit, who noted that Endeavor provides additional value to light up markets. Dark and distressed by alternative options.
New tools and lofty plans for commercial growth aside, Armit has been clear on one point: its R&A is more focused on ensuring that money is reinvested in the interest of making golf more accessible, attractive and inclusive in the future.
Kelly added, “I can’t think of anything more exciting than trying to convert something that’s been so long-standing, and yet has so much potential for improvement.” “There are many, many more to come here.”
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The story originally appeared on GolfWeek