CX Decoded Podcast With Travis Trembath of the PGA Tour


CX Decoded catches up with Travis Trembath of the PGA Tour on creating the best digital and in-person customer experiences.

Travis Trembath, vice president of fan engagement for the PGA Tour, is passionate about golf, customer experience and customer engagement. Having to the best golfers in the world compete under his company’s brand? That’s the easy part. Fan engagement, and digital customer experience, however, remains a moving target.

In this episode, Trembath shares some of the ways the Tour is engaging fans through data, such as data lakes and data warehouses. He also discusses using omnichannel approaches to get in touch with the PGA fan base, how he sees the future of the metaverse and other customer experience topics, including how a PGA behind-the-scenes documentary can build the organization’s fan base.

Plus, you get an inside look into life behind the scenes at the PGA Tour, a prestigious global professional sports brand. We caught up with Trembath for our latest CX Decoded podcast

CX Decoded Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript is edited for length and clarity.

Michelle Hawley: Hello, and welcome to our latest edition of CX Decoded. I’m Michele Hawley, senior editor for CMSWire, and I’m joined by my co-host, Dom Nicastro, managing editor of CMSWire. What’s going on Dom?

Dom Nicastro: Not much, Michelle, I hope you’re all well. I’m ready to talk customer experience, customer engagement, or in this case today, Michelle, I want to say fan experience and fan engagement, which I’m very excited to do. So we got our guest here. He’s going to talk all about that. This is today joining us. Travis Trembath, VP of fan engagement for the PGA Tour. How cool is that? Travis, how you doing today?

Travis Trembath: I’m doing great. Thank you guys for having me. Excited to be here.

Dom: Cool. Yeah, I am too, excited to have you. And I’ll admit Travis, you know, my golf experience is once every 10 years I go on to a bachelor party. I take the first shot, I hit it as hard as I can. I don’t care where it goes. And then I sit in the golf cart and drink a couple of brews the rest of the day. So I can’t break down Rory McIlroy’s, you know, driver putts. And I can’t do that with you, but I can talk fan experience.

Travis: Well, that’s great. I can’t break down Rory’s swing either if that makes any difference. I’m much better at talking fan experience than the golf swing myself so … 

Dom: Nice. So we would love to give our listeners, Travis, a sense of who you are, how you got in your role there, your background, and then we’re not going to let you off the hook without giving us one fun fact about yourself unrelated to your job … go.

Travis: Awesome. Well, I have a brand management background prior to my time here at the PGA Tour. I’ve been at the tour now for 11 years, spent the first six-plus doing various roles in our sponsorship group to business development account management research and have now been in this role, fan engagement role for a little over four years, and really focused on being the voice of the fan here at the PGA Tour using research insights, analytics to help the organization, you know, informed decision making and strategy and help us drive the business. So that I’d say is the background. So fun fact, I guess I’ll give you a couple.

So from a career standpoint, my first job out of college was as an actuary, which I don’t like to admit to too many people because most of the stereotypes are true. So you know, that’s kind of where I started in a hardcore analytics role, and I’ve done a bunch of marketing and sales stuff since. And then the other one is that I co-founded and started a fast-casual restaurant here in the Ponte Vedra Beach area and have since gotten out of it. But that was a great education. That was the school of hard knocks for me. Not an industry for the faint of heart, but a lot of fun.

Dom: All right, so we got it. We got the actuary. We got the restaurant. And now fan experience with PGA Tour. We got the whole persona, we’re ready to go. Michelle, you ready to ask some questions about how he gets this done, this fan experience stuff?

A Diverse Customer Engagement Team Focused on Analytics

Michelle: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like you’ve had a really well-rounded experience up until this point. So I’m a little curious about your engagement team. Who’s on it. Who does it report to? And what are some of the skill sets the team has?

Travis: Yeah, so we’ve got a pretty diverse team. So our group, we’ve got a few people that are focused on the analytics. We’ve gotten in AWS [Amazon Web Services] data lake, they’re mining that consumption data for insights, you know, whether it’s from television consumption, or digital or social, really cross channel. And then we have a few folks that are focused more on research qualitative, as well as quantitative survey-based research. We have a panel of 11,000 fans that we survey 30-plus times a year on every topic under the sun. So a couple folks focused on that. And then a couple that are the third sort of bucket is database and email marketing, CRM, that whole space. So a pretty diverse set of skills within the group here.

Team Effort on Customer Experience Data Science and Tech

Dom: Yeah, you got a lot of sort of marketing technology tool champions, right? Because we do a lot of reporting on like, who owns the martech stack, you know, who owns the CRM, who owns the CDP if you have one or experience management systems? So do you like to have that one champion that is leading a certain tool and works on integrations implementations, or is it a team effort or a little bit of both.

Travis: We really approach it more on kind of the team effort side of things. So we partner up with our counterparts in data science and technology and ad operations and our media buying team and really work together as a group to get the right infrastructure in place, the right tools in place, and then our team really focuses on using the data both to learn more about our fans to research our fans and to engage them. So yeah, we’re highly dependent on kind of our partners in the other areas of the business and work very collaboratively together. And even within our fan engagement team, we like to have multiple people that are familiar with all the tools, whether it’s the experience management side of things, or mining some of our consumption channels, Nielsen data, and Visio data and Adobe digital data, like to kind of have multiple people working across all those areas. You know, I think I always think the more minds you put against something, the better.

Related Article: The Most Important Components of Customer Experience 

Using a Combination of Customer Base Data Sources 

Dom: Yeah, it’s fascinating. The cross-section of data that’s coming in, I would imagine. Can you give us some examples of where your data is coming from, from fans? I mean, there’s going to be ticketing online, there’s going to be social media, there’s going to be in-person experiences, right? They might do something in person that you collect and manage that data. Where’s all this data coming from this? There’s so many angles I can imagine?

Travis: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And I think that’s what makes this industry and this organization so interesting. And it’s such a fascinating space to work in. I mean, we have, I would say, upwards of 20 different touchpoints for our fans. And you mentioned several of them, you’ve got social media, you’ve got fantasy golf, you’ve got our website, our app, our broadcast or streaming platform through ESPN, plus all of our betting operators, we have PGA Tour Superstore, who’s a licensee of ours, you’ve got a retail component, you’ve got the on-site tournament component. And we get various levels and types of data from all of those different platforms and channels. And in some cases, it’s you know, more anonymous consumption data that we can learn about our fans. And then in other cases, it’s PII [personal identifiable information], it’s first-party data that we can use to learn more about our fans, but also engage them and try to get them to take more actions. So it’s really a combination, and just across a lot of different channels and touchpoints, which really keeps things interesting for us, for sure to say the least.

Related Article: How to Make the Customer Journey More Data Driven 

Tapping into All the Data Sources Can Feel a Little ‘Wild West’

Dom: I’m sure it does. And when you’re looking at all that data coming from all kinds of angles, so many channels, is there a central management system, right? I’m not asking like, “Oh, who’s the vendor you use for?” Not like that. But is there some central repository for that data where you can truly get everything together and create experiences from that? Or is the reality and this is fine. This is what we hear mostly, that it’s just coming from a lot of different systems. And it’s the job of the marketing team, the customer experience team, the fan engagement team, to pull it all together?

Travis: Yeah, I would say, you know, from a technology standpoint, we have a data lake that houses most of the data. And we’ve got a warehouse that kind of sits on top of our data lake. So really, all of this data is kind of coming into that warehouse, if it’s first-party data, or to the lake if it’s anonymous consumption data. So it’s all kind of coming into one spot, how we use it, how we get it out of the warehouse to the lake into some of the downstream tools, or the data visualization tools, if we’re trying to monitor fan behavior. That’s where it’s varied. And we have analysts that are based across the different business units here that are all kind of working on their little area and all tapping into that centralized warehouse. It can feel like a little bit of a Wild West at times just in terms of how we’re using the data and how we’re getting it out. And what we’re doing with it certainly is varied across the organization.

‘Data Deluge’ Can Be Challenging, Tricky

Michelle: You guys have a ton of fans. And it sounds like you’re connecting with those fans pretty regularly and you’re getting data from other data streams. I think there’s got to be a lot of challenges that come with that we actually have a term for that a CMSWire. We call it the “data deluge” because there’s just so much to sift through. So what are the biggest challenges of managing your fan data?

Travis: I like that term. We definitely have a lot of that. So I’d say you know, one of the biggest challenges for us is we do have all these different consumption channels. And it can be really tricky at times to tie together behaviors across channels for individual fans, right so I might have information coming through our social platforms on the behaviors of fans within the social platform and same for TV and digital but stitching together across platforms is challenging. And I think that’s one of the things that’s most exciting for us about our new relationship with Qualtrics. And the tools that we’ll be able to tap into through their XM Platform is it’ll help us start to be able to kind of stitch together profiles across platforms of individual fans.

Related Article: Providing Experience in an Omnichannel World 

Global Challenges Are Opportunities Waiting to Be Mined

Dom: You know, as you’re talking through Travis, I’m thinking like, man, this team must gotta be an all-star team here. Because I mean, you know, PGA International, international brand, do you have to have people working on an international level to like a global scale? Do you have a data team across the way? Or is it just the United States being like, the PGA is like a United States brand? Obviously, the golfers go beyond the United States to play too, you know, so is it kind of some global challenges there, too?

Travis: Yeah. And I think we view them more as opportunities. You know, we’re fortunate that we have a platform and a sport that is very global in nature, and we’ve got Japan, for example, or Korea, they are mad about golf, in a great way. And so we have resources that are some that are based here in the US that are working on our international business. And then we do have some satellite offices, as well and keep other parts of the world that are focused on understanding, you know, not just researching, analyzing and understanding our fans in those regions, but figuring out how to better engage them and how to localize the experience within those markets. And then, and then we also have a host of international media partners as well, that obviously help us in that regard as well. So, yes, it’s definitely a sport with a lot of global appeal. And we’ve got a very much an international kind of mindset around not just understanding our fans, but how we conduct our business in general.

Dom: Yeah, and I think a lot of our readers and CMSWire, and listeners to this podcast have those challenges, too, you know, or opportunities, as you call them to cater to international customers, in your case, international fans. So it takes quite the team to pull that off. I mean, some of these technologies out there have globalization, like localization technologies, where they translate content and stuff like that. Are you having to dabble into those kinds of technologies where you’re putting out experiences in a different language other than English?

Travis: One-hundred percent? Yeah, no, we have very much focused on kind of localization. And we’ve got across our international team. We’ve got folks that are yeah, working on language, translated content and marketing to really engage those fans. And yeah, I’d say it’s certainly a massive effort. It’s definitely an important part of our business and one of the biggest kind of differentiators for us as a sport relative to others. So something that’s a huge focus of ours.

Competing for Customers’ Time

Dom: Travis, we know that football season here. I mean, when this podcast airs it will be well into football, but at the time of the recording, football was just starting. So of course, the PGA is going to be on its toes getting ready for that competition for people’s attention. Football was a monster, what are some of the ways you’re getting ready for that?

Travis: It’s always been a focus of ours. So we actually, a couple of years ago, reconfigured our whole schedule, and the main goal was to end the Tour Championship, which is like our Super Bowl, no pun intended, to end before football season starts. So definitely football’s a monster. You know, a lot of our core fans, golf fans will watch the PGA Tour and will watch golf around the calendar. But in the summer months, and when football is not going on, it allows us to really pull in a lot of those more mainstream sports fans or casual fans. So yeah, it’s definitely, you know, always top of mind for us. You know what else is going on in the competitive sports landscape that could, you know, attract viewers’ attention and we kind of redid our whole schedule to end before football started.

Dom: Just as long as you can take some of the attention away from my old pal Tom Brady and his diva personality now. All his … all of a sudden he leaves Belichick and he’s social media, man, you know?

Travis: Yeah. Well, no promises there.

Related Article: How Can You Increase Your Share of a Customer’s Life? 

A Netflix Documentary to Engage With the PGA Audience

Dom: So off air a little bit. Travis, you’re telling us about this exciting new Netflix documentary for the PGA? What details can you share with our audience about that?

Travis: We’re really excited. If any of the listeners have seen the “Formula One” documentary that was on Netflix, basically the PGA Tour has partnered with Netflix and some of the same folks to produce a similar kind of behind-the-scenes look at, you know, life on tour and kind of what these players are going through on and off the course and just how challenging it is to be a professional golfer, you know, playing 20-30 weeks out of the year, a global schedule, and I think it’s gonna be really cool. Just, you know, another perspective to the sport that fans and even those of us that work in the industry haven’t seen. So we’re really excited. And it’s been a very interesting and tumultuous season in the sport of golf. And so I think it’ll be particularly captivating and interesting. So I’m excited as a fan to see that come out. And from a business standpoint, the Netflix series on “Formula One” had just a profound impact on it, you know, and attracting kind of new fans, so we hope it does something similar for us here at the tour.





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