Not too long ago The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) was one of the “it” properties, growing and engaged, with a passionate core of fans whose devotion was NASCAR-like. Expansion was all the rage and the slope was ascending up. However in recent years the property has plateaued, and although still strong on key markets, it has lost its place among the conversation of emerging properties. All of that may be changing now with some newly infused ownership and a concentration back on the personalities as 2016 begins.
The first step of that re-engagement will come in the form of broadcast as the season kicks off as CBS is set to air a brutally honest one-hour documentary taking an unvarnished look at the PBR, PBR DANGER ON THE DIRT
In PBR, 150-pound cowboys try to tame 2,000-pound bulls bred to buck. The odds clearly favor the raging bulls. Over a ten-month season, the riders put themselves through enormous physical punishment. Why would a professional athlete put his body through such an ordeal? This CBS special airing on CBS Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. ET or 5 p.m. ET (depending on market) brings fans into the psyche of the bull riders competing for PBR’s championship at the 2015 World Finals in Las Vegas.
With PBR’s top athletes mic’ed up as they hit the dirt and then discussing why they ride bulls for a living, this is a stunning portrait of athletic toughness. Fans get into the heads of these intrepid cowboys putting everything on the line to claim the title of world’s best…and a million bucks at the World Finals
The PBR documentary on CBS is noteworthy for several reasons.
1. New Audience – PBR worked with CBS to choose this time in the late NFL window on week 16 to show and tell its story to an audience that will potentially be the largest of the season. “We wanted to expose new fans – the massive NFL audience – to one of the toughest sports in the world,” says Andrew Giangola, a spokesperson for WME| IMG, which acquired PBR earlier this year.
2. Digital / Social – Primary distribution for PBR Danger on the Dirt is CBS, however, this content is also created for PBR to share with its fan base via the sport’s growing social and digital channels. PBR is putting more resources and emphasis behind plussing up its Instagram, Twitter and Facebook channels, which are among the fastest growing in sports. The toughest 8 seconds in sports is tailor made for the ‘vine’ generation,
3. Story-telling emphasis – This documentary is a manifestation of the “new PBR” and the brainchild of the sport’s new CEO Sean Gleason, who is emphasizing story telling through close, intimate access and high quality production. Gleason wanted an unvarnished look at some of the PBR’s most gritty and intriguing personalities as they battled through the most grueling season in PBR history.
The documentary focuses on the stories of quintessential swaggering cowboy J.B. Mauney, who rode through pain to win his second PBR World Championship and become the sport’s first “$6 million man”; NFL star (Carolina Panthers DE) Jared Allen, owner of Airtime, a volatile bovine contending for bull of the year; Jessie Byrne, a courageous bullfighter protecting his bull-riding brother, Tanner; and Bonner Bolton, a young heartthrob entering the spotlight for the first time at the World Finals.
4. Expanded Content Plan – Danger on the Dirt is just the start of PBR under their new owners making significant investments in new content starting in 2016 via heightened story-telling on traditional networks as well as new and emerging digital platforms.
In many ways the PBR is tailor-made, like MMA, for a young engaged thrill-seeking audience. If the new approach can bring in more brand activation and find a wider storytelling audience through digital, and especially through mobile, then the circuit has a chance again to cut through the clutter.
It will be a long ride, but understanding the consumer today, and delivering content to him or her on any device, is key. It doesn’t hurt to start with the storytelling on CBS and go from there, and with two major markets, Chicago and New York, on tap to start, the game is just beginning for a 21st century property that is getting back on track.