IBM at the 2024 Masters — Augusta National Golf Club — MI&S Game Time Tech

Moor Insights & Strategy hosts its Game Time Tech podcast with IBM live at the Masters! Join us for an exciting conversation steeped in tradition and tech with IBM Partner and Practice Lead, IBM ix Sports and Entertainment, Monica Ellingson, about IBM watsonx’s Digital Experience at The Masters.

In an era shaped by AI and data, these technologies are leaving their mark on various industries, including sports. They are transforming how sports are played and enhancing the overall fan experience. Technology sponsorships have evolved beyond displaying logos to introducing technology and data-driven insights that significantly improve the way sports are played.

IBM and IBM watsonx is set to change the 2024 Masters experience by revealing the mystique of Augusta National Golf Club through its Masters’ digital platform, Hole Insights, AI Narration, and other innovations. These innovations are designed to elevate the Masters experience as they showcase IBM’s drive to enhance customer care experiences and data-driven decisions across industries.

Tune in to the Game Time Tech podcast, where hosts Melody Brue and Robert Kramer explore the roles of AI and data at this year’s Masters, along with Monica, who is joining us live from Augusta!

The 88th Masters Tournament will be played from April 11-14 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA. To see IBM technology in action, visit Masters.com or the Masters mobile app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

The Game Time Tech podcast is a Six Five Media Production.

Watch the video here:

Listen to the audio here:

Transcripts:

Melody Brue: Welcome to Moor Insights & Strategy Game Time Tech Podcast. I’m Melody Brue with Moor Insights & Strategy, and I’m with my co host and partner in our sports technology vertical, Robert Kramer. We are so excited to have Monica Ellingson partner with IBM consulting and practice lead of the sports and entertainment group at IBM, who is live from Augusta National at the 88th Masters tournament.

Hi, Monica. Thanks for joining us. How are you?

Monica Ellingson: Hi, I’m great. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Melody Brue: Yeah. Well, we’re jealous that you’re there, but I know you’ve got lots of work to do while you’re there. So the find is really interesting. The masters is so known for tradition, but they are really embracing so much cutting edge technology and you have a long history with the masters. What you want to talk a little bit about IBM’s history with. Augusta National and the Masters before we get into kind of what you’re doing with AI and with this particular tournament.

Monica Ellingson: Sure. So IBM has worked with Augusta National and the Masters Golf Tournament for over 25 years. We are the technology partner for the Masters Golf Tournament, and we work with Augusta National year round, not only for tournament delivery, but also for ticketing and other IT operations. So We are really joined at the hip. And so for 25 years, we’ve worked together. Starting out with the first website back in 1996. And here we are on site today. We are setting up for the 2024 Masters Tournament and we have a lot of things that we plan to unveil.

And one of the things I wanted to point out as you mentioned about Just the tradition and history behind Augusta National. And, that’s something that everyone focuses on when they think about the Masters brand. But another part of their mission as an organization is to be the first in sports, the best of their kind, not only in their customer service and their onsite patron experience, but everything that we deliver in terms of the digital experience too. And so we’re always working to basically, convey the beauty of Augusta National the inherent just nature and support to support their brand. But also, what are the new ways that we can, bring the game of golf bring the experience of the Masters to digital fans.

Melody Brue: And so with those new ways, you’re using AI to impact the fan experience. Those are the new announcements. Let’s talk about that.

Monica Ellingson: That’s right. We have actually a pretty long history of using AI here at the Masters. Starting back up, almost eight years ago. But for this year, we are continuing to build upon the offerings that we have in the generative AI space. You’re using large language models and wastonx. And we have two major features that we plan to bring to the digital fan experience this year. One is called Whole Insights, which is generated by AI using watsonx and basically it allows fans within the 3D track experience within the Masters digital platforms, which tracks every single shot as it comes in live and traces it within a 3D model of the course.

And what we are doing is using AI to lay on top of that. Insights into how the course not only plays historically, but how it is playing that day. So we’re folding in a very large collection of data from player performance, course performance, more than eight years of data, 22, 000 shots per year, on average, plus all of the statistics associated with each individual shot, the scores, et cetera.

So it’s a massive amount of data. And without AI, we wouldn’t be able to actually generate all of these insights and the goal here is really, it’s very difficult to get a ticket to come here. Let alone play this course you know for It’s really just to pull off some of the layers and the mystique about the course and help, help people understand, you know What’s the likelihood of making par or birdie from this particular location. How is the course playing today? Is this the most favorable hole of the day or is it the most difficult? And so that’s a Whole Insights is one of the key features that we’re rolling out this year.

Robert Kramer: And you’re talking about the Whole Insights and it’s all a data driven world today, right? And, oh, by the way, I have my green on because it’s apropos for this conversation.

Melody Brue: Robert has tried.

Robert Kramer: I’ve tried to get into the Masters, but we’ll get there one day. So Whole Insights is a really cool feature. And the data that you’re using is a part of that, right? So how does this data actually influence the fans appreciation for these nuances of each hole because you talked about how they can see the historical components of it, how they can see the, what the shot’s going to do based on the weather. But do the fans want to see that? Do they like that? Does this data, is it accurate? Is it doing something different? To the fans what they’re going to experience this year,

Monica Ellingson: definitely. And one of the things that we are always looking to do is to provide the, our fans, the digital fan experiences, fans expect a personalized experience. Now they expect to have, As much data as they can get their hands on and, we’re able, through AI and also just, using garage methodology and just our overall collaborative style in working with Augusta National were able to take those insights and chunk them out into small bits so that, it doesn’t interfere with your experience.

You can turn them off. You can turn them on. You can go deeper or you can keep it at a higher level because we’re always very focused on your different types of fans. There’s a casual fan who maybe just really wants to check in once in a while, what’s happening with Tiger today or what have you. But then there are this whole nother level of avid fans and this particular population is growing and growing. And within that audience cluster, you have people who play golf. Who want to understand, how do I become a better golfer? How would I play the masters? And if they’re coming on site, what is, where do they want to go? What’s the most difficult hole? And we’re always focused on, providing additional content to all different types of fans to enhance their experience.

Robert Kramer: Yeah, that’s really cool. And there’s a really strong component with watsonx and, managing the life cycle of these AI models, right? So the features like the AI narration and the Whole Insights come to life offering a different perspective, a deeper one for the game. So IBM’s driving enhanced customer care experiences and these data driven decisions across all these industries. So what’s a customer use case that showcases this that’s not really on public stage right now? And you can give us some preview to.

Monica Ellingson: Sure when you mentioned about a I narration. And one of the things I want to mention about that is, this a large part of our generative AI use cases have been focused on enabling the next generation of personalization, and the only way you can really enable that is to create the amount of content that every variation of fan actually would need to have a truly personalized experience. And I think that in terms of thinking about other industries outside of sports where you can see this coming to life. So let’s think about the retail industry, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about personal shoppers or what have you, imagine where you could have a personalized shopper who could literally, not only you know, recommend products.

So we’ve all seen in all of our online shopping experiences, Oh, well, this is recommended for you based on your previous purchasing to actually bubble that up to the point where it is completely personalized to you. It is you could, add additional criteria based not only on your past perfect purchases, but on projections of what you might be interested in, and then, you can even add a conversational component onto it. And that’s really where GenAI comes into play is to generate all of this different variations of content to really make it personal to you.

Melody Brue: And that variation of content can be difficult, especially when you’re talking about nuances of a complicated game like golf. And also, I know you’re doing translation to Spanish this year. When you’re dealing with, there’s so many nuances and there’s so many kind of like this, there’s a golf language, it’s not just a clear translation. So what are some of the challenges in developing that AI and that AI driven analysis that was specific for golf?

Monica Ellingson: Well, I do want to talk a little bit about the AI narration, and I think that’s probably one of the better ways to answer your question. And for example, in 2023, we rolled out the first, one of the first generative AI narrations. So basically, here at the Masters, we Have a solution called the every shot solution, which captures a single shot, highlight video, highlight for every single player, every hole, every round, every shot at the masters. And that usually ends up being about 22, 000 shots. per year. And we have over the years that solution was first rolled out in 2019. And we’ve continued to evolve that by repackaging that content into a collection, new collections of highlights that are generated by at AI. My Group, which is a personalized experience, allowing you to repackage all of those shots into a playlist that’s personalized to you.

And then we, in 2023, we added upon that, that you can actually have your own commentator. So all of those 22, 000 shots in the past had been just natural sound because it would have been absolutely impossible for. Any human team to commentate at the speed and the number of videos that we had. So narration was added in English. Now for this year, we have expanded that and we are now generating commentary or narration for those 22, 000 clips. And this happens within seconds. The ball, the club hits the ball. All right, we captured that shot and within minutes it’s appearing within the digital platforms with commentary with narration laid on top of it. So last year we did it for English. This year we’re also including Spanish. And this isn’t just a simple translation. We’re not taking that English commentary and folding it into a translated, a translation service. That wouldn’t be, that’s been around for a really long time. We’re actually auto generating through AI the Spanish narration. And we’re doing this in real time.

So that as you were watching your, my group experience, for example, your personalized live stream within the master’s digital platforms, you can turn on, you can select English narration. You can select. Spanish narration. You can also, as part of this, we’re generating closed captions as well. So you can listen in and read and watch the Masters and the way that is personalized to you. So one of the things I want to say about that whole process, because you mentioned about training and, how do you go about doing this? Part of this, we’re using large language models and watsonx, but think about we have a hundred players here at the Masters, and they’re from all over the world. So even just their names, if you think about narrating sports and you have the player’s name, we had to teach the model how to say every individual player’s name. We had to teach the model about the jargon of golf and then the unique language about Augusta National, the way Augusta talks about golf. And all of that. Had to be taught in order to enable the AI narration at the masters.

Robert Kramer: It’s fantastic. Does it tell you how fast the greens are? Anyway, so we’re as a fan, myself and Mel and everybody listening in, where are all the places that us and other fans can experience these great technologies from IBM for the masters, because we’re very interested in seeing the action and watching it and taking advantage of this

Monica Ellingson: Well, you can watch it and follow in many different ways. We our platforms include responsive web so you can follow it on your browser on your phone on mobile web You can also download the app from the Apple store or the Google play store. You can follow on Apple TV. So have a brand new redesigned Apple TV app this year. As well as on your Apple watch and your Android wear platforms will be supported this year as well.

Robert Kramer: And there’s a fantasy app as well.

Monica Ellingson: Yes. So as part of the digital platforms, there’s a fantasy experience and everybody should go on and create their roster right now. Because once the player starts on Thursday next week, then the game is on at that point. So everybody get out there and create your fantasy roster. And that’s always a good time for everybody.

Melody Brue: That’s great. We’ll definitely link those and all of those places that you can find it in the show notes.

Robert Kramer: Well, this has been great. Is there anything else you want to tell the audience while we’re here before we conclude?

Monica Ellingson: Well, I hope everybody is as big of a Masters fan as I am, and I hope you really enjoy this year’s tournament. I think it’s going to be fantastic. So far, the weather here has been wonderful, and please download our apps and enjoy the Masters Digital Experiences. Thank you so much for everything here.

Robert Kramer: Well, thank you so much. And we are very excited to watch from afar, to take advantage of the apps and see what watsonx can do in action. So thank you very much, IBM and yourself, Monica, for attending Game Time Tech, live at the Masters, and we’ll look forward to many future tiimes with IBM coming up with how you sponsor different sports activities at the U. S. Open and Wimbledon, and then join us for other occasions as we have other customers lined up. So goodbye for now and looking forward to watching the Masters next week.

Monica Ellingson: Thank you so much for having me.

Melody Brue
+ posts

Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders. 

Robert Kramer
VP & Principal AnalystatMoor Insights & Strategy| + posts

Robert Kramer is vice president and principal analyst covering enterprise data, including data management, databases, data lakes, data observability, data analytics, and data protection. Robert has over 30 years of proven experience with startups, IT companies, global marketing, detailed strategies, business modeling, and planning, working with enterprise companies, GTM assets, management, and execution.

Patrick Moorhead
+ posts

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.

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