Objectives: During the summer of 2020, there was a shift in the market landscape which meant that Mastercard had to adjust their focus and look to both engage and provide their cardholders with digital experiences in lieu of the physical. Mastercard wanted to enable fans of the event the chance to participate in a unique and competitive ‘Virtual Open’ that ensured the tournament lived on, even in a COVID affected year.
Background: Mastercard has been a Patron of The Open Championship, the oldest golf tournament in the world and one of the most prestigious, for 9 years, however, as a result of Covid-19, The 149th Open at Royal St George’s was cancelled in 2020. Therefore, as a substitute to The Open Championship, we partnered with World Golf Tour and The R&A to develop an event appropriate for a Covid-19 world, the first ever e-Open. The e-Open was an opportunity to create a multi-week digital experience that any market, wherever World Golf Tour operates, could leverage.
Goals: This tournament enabled Mastercard to keep The Open brand relevant, identify a new and engaged audience, plus create new rights and revenue streams, whilst keeping pace with other golf rights holders.
Strategy: Once we understood that The Open Championship was cancelled, we engaged in conversations with World Golf Tour, who informed us that the venue due to host the Championship, Royal St Georges, was already loaded onto their World Golf Tour platform. This then raised the exciting possibility that a virtual tournament could still be played, as each hole had already been meticulously re-created digitally.
Mastercard, in partnership with World Golf Tour, proceeded to create and host a custom, virtual e-Open at Royal St George’s GC, crafting a unique backdrop to allow fans to engage in their passion for golf, demonstrate innovation and provide an alternative to the postponed 149th Open.
Implementation: The e-Open lived on World Golf Tour for approximately 6 weeks and was a fan event, open to any gamer with a player profile on World Golf Tour, currently the free online golf game, both on desktop and mobile app.
As part of the e-Open, we produced an ‘Exhibition Match’, utilising Mastercard’s professional golf ambassadors, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell, to amplify awareness, generate greater engagement with the online tournament, as well as creating a sense of real competition by offering unique Open related prizes to participants. In addition, we secured the reputable, Rick Shiels, a golf expert with an enormous social following, to host the exhibition match, which offered insightful live commentary and ensured viewers remained engaged.
The e-Open final was an online head-to-head match, played virtually on Royal St George’s golf course, between the two players remaining in the competition. This was Livestreamed on the R&A’s YouTube channel, with a live feed to NBC Sports app for free viewing. After the success of the Exhibition Match, we engaged Rick Shiels to host the Final, whilst also securing Seb Carmichael-Brown, a World Golf Tour expert, to discuss in detail the various techniques of the players, adding to the sense of real competition.
Key Features: The event was unique because it was the first e-Open ever held. The Open has one of the longest and most prestigious histories of any sporting event in the world, and the e-Open added an important modern twist on a classic event, which capitalised on the popularity of Esports in the golf space.
To ensure full 360 sensory branding we integrated Mastercard’s subtle, but unmistakable brand identity throughout the tournament:
Furthermore, the digital delivery of the e-Open enabled increased reach and engagement, in which we leveraged the power of our digital platforms, Priceless.com and Mastercard’s social channels, to cross-promote to a global audience. We amplified the e-Open on Priceless.com with three global charity auctions, in which prizes included a trip to The 2021 Open and Mastercard ambassador-signed merchandise, with the proceeds going to our charity partner, The World Food Programme.
Our positioning as an innovative technology brand made us a natural fit for the e-Open. The events’ focus on the future and innovation as well as delivering experiences for those passionate about golf and Esports even while at home allows Mastercard to leverage the power of Priceless, connecting and enabling people to priceless experiences and inspiring people to engage with their passion.
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