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Branding Toughness: Marketers Should Be Bullish on Professional Bull Riders

One day while channel surfing I came to a full stop when a country rock teaser with cowboys and mean-looking bulls came on. "This is the PBR!" Two hours later I was a fan. Professional Bull Riders, PBR for short, is terrific entertainment. The tour is masterfully branded and marketed. Interestingly, the marketing adds to the fun because the brands fit like snug Wrangler's. Brands set the context and are woven into the storytelling.



PBR positions itself as the toughest sport on dirt. Brands with "toughness" fit.

The biggest sponsor is Ford with the Built Ford Tough Series. There is natural alignment between the F-150 and the even tougher Super Duty line both in terms of what the brands stand for and what they do. If you're hauling livestock or doing other tough jobs, you need a powerful truck. Ford did more than just put their name on the tour. Ford is introducing the 2013 Super Duty via webcast on Friday with a PBR tie-in.

My favorite piece of bovine brand integration was renaming a really tough bull Super Duty. Unfortunately that was short-lived because Super Duty had to retire from competition due to a bad back. But as a fan, every time I hear Super Duty I think of the bull's attitude. When I see the monster grille of the truck itself, I think of horns coming out the chute. This is a good thing. Melding the mental model is the whole point of branding and sponsorships.

Super Duty


The most visible PBR sponsor is Dickies. They make tough, long-lasting work clothes. When a rank bull leaves the chute, everyone's watching the ride. Riders are either bucked off early or they escape with as much grace as possible after 8 seconds. The bull, being a bull, can charge, kick, stomp and try to hurt the rider. That's where bullfighters come in. They distract the bull so the rider can escape. When they aren't bullfighting, they do color commentary on the broadcasts, all the while wearing Dickies shirts.



Brands with a western heritage and lifestyle appeal also fit in the world of PBR and they've signed on: Jack Daniel's, Wrangler, Bass Pro Shops, etc. If you like country music and NASCAR, you may also like PBR. But don't try to stereotype PBR. They have diverse riders from all over the world. They have female contractors and broadcasters. They invited Chad Ochocinco to try to last 8 seconds in a wonderful made-for-social-media NFL meets PBR moment.

PBR meets and exceeds expectations with a careful recipe of entertainment, engagement and outreach. Combine that with the new CBS and NBC television contracts for this season and I'm bullish on PBR. I think the toughest sport on dirt will continue to be the fastest growing sport over the next few years.