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Volume 21 No. 39
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Plugged In: Sloane Kelley, PGA Tour

In her role as senior director of content for the PGA Tour, Sloane Kelley is responsible for shaping much of the tour’s digital and social media presence. She joined the tour in 2013 from the boutique brand agency BFG Communications. At the tour, Kelley oversees a staff of some 30 employees charged with developing and operating digital content strategies as the tour increasingly leverages its social media channels, digital media, virtual reality and other emerging technologies to reach fans and gain exposure.

We want to think about how we can do more from a storytelling perspective. … We are getting to a place where some of the experiments within the augmented reality space will start hopefully seeing the light of day for our fans.

Photo by: PGA TOUR

On working in golf with no previous sports experience:
I had a background in the creative agency side before I came to the tour. … The tour was bringing its digital business in-house from Turner. There were a lot of exciting things happening within the digital department at the tour, and for me that is what I thrive on. It’s all about a good, creative challenge. Within the first couple of months I tried to meet with as many people as I could to immerse myself in all things PGA Tour. Obviously, it was a huge change coming from that agency background and diving into a sports league. What I continually heard about was that the tour was open to new thinking. Over time, I was able to bring to my group a style of a creative agency. It didn’t happen overnight. Slowly, we’ve made a lot of shifts in how we work together. We have much more of that agency vibe.

On the tour’s biggest digital initiatives in the last year: Where do I begin? There have been a lot of firsts for us. I know virtual reality is the exciting thing everyone is talking about. We executed live VR and 360 video at several tournaments starting with The Players Championship. The new thing is that we put live 360 view on the Twitter platform. It’s great to develop content for VR headsets, but when we work with Twitter to reach a mass audience, that is really important. We’ve had tremendous feedback from fans so we will be doing more of it. That was a big win for us. We launched a series of interesting immersive stories this year. It tends to be what people will spend a good bit of time with versus a quick video on Facebook or wherever. My personal favorite is the one we did on Jack Nicklaus. We spent many months working on content and making it truly unique.

On the changes in the use of digital and social content at the tour: There are so many more places where we have to reach our fans. Our fans are on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube, but they are also moving to Amazon Echo and putting on VR headsets, and they are hungry for PGA Tour content in all of these different mediums. That’s a big change. It takes a lot of institutional knowledge. You can’t be afraid to experiment a little bit. No one has the secret sauce figured out yet. We have to be comfortable with the idea that it might not all work out of the gate.

On future content areas: Social platforms will continue to be a huge area of focus. On those platforms, the technology is always changing, so we are always changing how we produce things. Facebook Live has really become a very important medium for us. We definitely will keep that up. We are doing a lot more on the international front. That is a big area of focus for the tour and for my team.

                                                                                                                            — John Lombardo