As the economy continues to wreak havoc with sports and entertainment sponsorship. and brands look for new ways to stretch a dollar, one wonder. what will happen to season and niche sports and how they will survive. While the four major sports in the US, as well as NASCA. and MLS, continue to find ways to engage and keep brands and grow or at least maintain, sports below that tier continue the hand wringing and the fight for survival. Tennis and golf have the combination of recreational and professional exposure which helps, but below that the dollars seem to be harder to come by, and the result has been sports and brands disappearing as opposed to launching. So with all that churn, is there a niche sport that can continue to emerge and grow in this environmen.? Some point to the UFC and its brand power, but the UFC, now the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, is where the value is on the professional side right now.
Another option may actually be the PBR. The PBR, under the previous leadership of Randy Bernard and now led by Jeffrey Pollack, was thriving with brand infusion before the recession hit, and built a solid and defined core of business partners, activation activities and fans across the country. When dollars became scarcer, the brand stepped back. and now appears ready to re-engage for 2011 after a solid 2010. Wh.? First are the core followers that have built brand loyalty in key markets over the years. Second is the experience at a cost efficient level for the casual fan in cities and in arenas where the brand has not been exposed to before. Third are both the NASCAR-like loyalty and brand activation possibilities that its fans and its athletes enjoy. Then there are the bulls, the hidden gem in the equation. Unlike racing cars, the bulls are just as much the stars as those who ride them. They are relatively cost efficient to maintain and have a draw that is compelling for folks of all ages. Their power speaks just as loud as the road of a NAACAR engine.
Now does all this mean that the PBR can take things to a new level and become a dominant sport that draws and satisfies its core while pulling in new fans and partner.? Not yet totally, but they are on their way. Like they did with the NHL, VERSUS has shown a string ability to promote, and its events in weekends on network TV are doing OK as well. The leadership, as evidenced by the recent event in Times Square, is showing a vision to take the brand to new fans as opposed to waiting for fans to discover the sport itself. They are also looking at both regional and national activation programs that showcase the sport and its athletes in a cost efficient way, which can be very appealing to new brands who cannot afford the high, spend of some sports, and to existing brands that are looking to round out their overall sponsorship spend.
Yes it is violent to some extent and yes as the sport grows the battle with animal rights activists will probably be ratcheted up a bit. However the PBR has built a cost efficient and exciting experience that can travel well and draw people in, which give it more than a fighting chance as a sport and a brand to watch going into the new year.