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March 2019

Global “Shark Tank” for Golf Debuts at PGA Show

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By Steve Eubanks

One of the most fascinating events coming out of January’s PGA Merchandise Show at the Orlando Convention Center wasn’t a product or an exhibit. It was a reality show.

The Global Sports Innovation Competition, a reality event modeled after the popular show “Shark Tank,” which airs on ABC, wasn’t new when producers arrived in Orlando this past January. The British company that developed it, Hype Sports Innovation, has been conducting the competition in other sports and airing shows throughout Europe for some time. But 2019 was the first year the idea expanded into golf.
 
In one of the rooms off the main floor in the convention center, 10 finalists, selected from scores of entrants, pitched their products and services to a distinguished panel of judges, which included Roberta Bowman, the chief brand and communications officer of the LPGA and former CEO of Duke Energy; Jeff Price, the chief commercial officer of the PGA of America; and Randy Chase, director of strategic marketing for EA Sports. 

The panelists listened to pitches from companies like Golf Post, a media clearinghouse (or aggregator) for golf-related content; Khelfie Technologies, which bills itself as providing golf’s first “AI-powered super-wearable;” a hole-in-one rewards company called Swing Kings; and Kinexit, a personalized, online training program for golf fitness and flexibility.

But the two most intriguing companies, which also proved to be the finalists, were an online app company called CaddieNow, which, for lack of a better description, is Uber for caddies; and GolfBoo, a Spanish-based company which expands on the online tee-time model to everything from hotel and restaurant booking to transportation to and from the course. It is, for European golf travelers, the Travelocity of golf booking sites. 

GolfBoo won the competition. But the real winner was Hype, which has a hit in a new industry. The finals will air online and in select time-buy markets in the spring.

According to Ilan Hadar, the CEO of Hype, “We have been conducting these kinds of innovative competitions in soccer, tennis, endurance, all kinds of sports for quite some time. But this was our first venture into golf. And it was a tremendous success. We are very happy with the results and very happy for the winner and all the finalists.”

Steve Eubanks is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and New York Times bestselling author.

 

 

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