Last November, leading international sports marketing agency, publisher and data distributor IMG launched its industry-specific ‘IMG Arena’ division, seeking to deliver innovation and audience dynamics for all betting stakeholders.
The standalone division is led by Freddie Longe Managing Director, who details to SBC how IMG Arena will utilise all active corporate components to shake-up betting’s legacy tech values and market propositions…
SBC: Freddie, great to speak to you on IMG Arena. 2018 was a disruptive year for all sports stakeholders, why did IMG launch a specific unit supporting its sports betting operations/functions?
Freddie Longe (Managing Director at IMG Arena): IMG has been successfully serving the sports betting industry since 2012, when we introduced our tennis data service that has gone on to set the gold standard for data delivery.
We have now created a standalone division that continues to leverage the scale, expertise and reputation of IMG, yet is very much its own entity, with a high level of autonomy.
IMG Arena is focused on bringing sport and sports betting closer together through a selection of world-class products and services.
This was immediately highlighted with the announcement of our exclusive, multi-year partnership with the PGA TOUR, where we will distribute live shot by shot data for sports betting and media purposes. We believe our approach will revolutionise in-play golf betting as a fan-first experience that is centred around the consumer and genuinely delivers on their expectations in a digital age.
SBC: Can you detail further insight on developing ‘fan-first’ propositions and innovations and how they can impact sports betting’s current value chain?
FL: For many years, we have been working with rights holders to create propositions that allow the organisations and sports betting operators to truly engage with fans, as particularly demonstrated by our work in tennis and now in golf.
Working with the PGA TOUR, official data will be collected via the ShotLink® system. Through an elaborate network of walking scorers, lasers and greenside cameras, this will yield a rich set of data points from each shot in PGA TOUR competition in real time. IMG Arena will then use this to develop a range of innovative golf products that will provide golf fans with new and exciting ways to enjoy the sport. The difference is the increased level of immersion that will enable unseen levels of spectator participation. In turn, this boosts engagement and enjoyment, stimulating new betting opportunities.
SBC: As sports betting enters 2019, what dynamics do you believe that the industry does not understand with regards to nurturing modern sports audiences?
FL: The industry has, to a certain extent, been guilty of taking sports audiences for granted, pushing products that are not first and foremost fan-focused. That is where we believe the opportunity lies. In some cases, it will be relatively simple refinements to what’s already on offer, but there is also the potential for completely different ways of thinking.
SBC: IMG operates multiple legacy functions for global sports (data, content, publishing, agency representation) how will these components be utilised for IMG Arena’s future development?
FL: Our company heritage as IMG and part of the wider Endeavor group means we are uniquely placed to shake up the market. We bring a level of multi-faceted knowledge and experience that is simply unmatched by other providers in the sports betting space. IMG is a world-leader in sports, events, media and fashion, operating across the globe. The potential for identifying synergies, implementing learnings and driving creativity is enormous.
SBC: Launching IMG Arena, you have stated that you will be actively targeting new US market propositions. Why is innovation such a crucial component for the future of US betting?
FL: Innovation is crucial in all markets and this will be pushed to the extreme in the US, a hugely developed and digitally-savvy nation. Look at US sport broadcasting – the presentation is incredibly innovative and sophisticated and gives a good indication of the level of user experience that sports bettors will demand. US sport fans are used to being transported to the heart of the action. They are furnished with intricate and advanced information and enjoy footage captured from an array of camera angles on the best possible equipment. It’s still early days for sports betting in the US, but as it develops and matures, only a world-leading product will suffice in the market.
Freddie Longe – Managing Director – IMG Arena