By Barry Janoff
November 2, 2016: When some of your athletes weigh 1,500 lbs. or more and are regarded as being among the toughest competitors on the planet, you have some pretty big chutes to fill in marketing your product.
Professional Bull Riders has done just that in its new "Vs" efforts, which the circuit is calling the "largest marketing effort" and the "first fully-integrated, season-long brand campaign" in its history.
"We have had marketing efforts in the past, but they were more focused on driving ticket sales rather than overall brand awareness," said Chad Blankenship, svp-marketing for Professional Bull Riders. "We felt that the time was right to take advantage of the growth and momentum of the league to invest in a brand effort that truly reflects the modern PBR."
The campaign is launching to coincide with the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals, being held Nov. 2-6 in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
PBR, which traces it roots back to 1992, was acquired in 2015 by marketing and talent agency WME | IMG, which has used its global reach to build and enhance the status of PBR.
The "Vs" campaign includes TV to break on CBS and CBS Sports during PBR World Finals coverage; with support from print, radio, OOH, digital and social.
Rock legend Steven Tyler of Aerosmith (and American Idol) fame, who signed this past summer as the voice and face for PBR, will appear in PBR promos and in the 60-second TV anchor spot, singing "Hold On (Won’t Let Go)."
The alliance with Tyler is organic as he is represented by IMG.
The song was written for the campaign, but, according to Blankenship, Tyler liked it so much that it ended up on his first solo album, the C&W-themed We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums when it was released in mid July.
To support the album, as part of his "Out On A Limb" tour, Tyler will be the headliner at a show in T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 5.
Other top acts scheduled to perform during PBR World Finals week include Warrant, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Lita Ford, Rick Springfield and country stars Dustin Lynch and Jerrod Niemann.
The "Vs" effort is intended to "deepen PBR’s emotional resonance with current fans while stoking interest among new ones" by capturing the "beauty and intensity of PBR’s bull athletes and cowboys as well as the unique, epic battle of man against beast."
"The campaign is rooted in one of the key elements of PBR that separates us from a lot of other sports," said Blankenship. "We are pitting in direct competition a lightweight athlete against a heavyweight athlete: A 150 lb. cowboy sitting on the back of a 1,500 lb. bucking bull.
"The campaign is about highlighting the competitive tension that exists between the cowboys and the bulls. Honoring and respecting that battle. And celebrating both of them."
Creative and strategy was done in-house by WME | IMG’s team in New York.
According to Blankenship, another unique aspect of PBR events is that "even though they are competitors, the cowboys root for each other, and people in the arena root for the bulls as well as the riders."
PBR said it is experiencing "the most successful year in its history," with viewership on CBS Sports up +12% (1.3M average viewers per broadcast) and new attendance records during the 2016 tour.
In addition to national airings on CBS and CBS Sports, "Vs" will get major exposure in and around local markets for150 domestic events in the U.S. and Canada.
The campaign will also promote the Pro Bull Riders event in New York’s Madison Square Garden (scheduled for Jan. 6-8) and continue throughout the 26-event, 2017 nationwide Built Ford Tough Series tour.
The 60-second spot sees Tyler dressed in cowboy garb walking across a dry, dusty desert (filmed outside of Las Vegas). As he sings the theme song, we get shots of top riders and bulls preparing for competition. (See teaser spot here.)
The roster includes Guilherme Marchi, Jess Lockwood, Paulo Lima, Tanner Byrne, Robson Palermo, Shane Proctor, Derek Kolbaba, Ryan Dirteater, Kaique Pacheco, Fabiano Vieira, Silvano Alves, Joao Vieira, and JB Maundy; and top bulls Cochise, Wicker and Asteroid.
Print shows bulls and cowboys facing each other with text that includes: Beauty/Beast, Well-Trained/UnTamed, Heavyweight/Lightweight, Bred For This/Born For This and Buck Off/Buck You.
PBR will award more than $3.5 million in prize money to riders and bulls this week, culminating with $1 million presented to the 2016 PBR World Champion.
PBR marketing partners include Ford, Sonic, Caterpillar, Peak, Heinz BBQ Sauce, Wrangler, Jack Daniel’s, Dickies, Stanley, Cooper Tires, Bass Pro Shops and Monster Energy.
(Also see story at MediaPost)
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