The broad and lasting implications of the recent Presidential election will ultimately be measured in the history books.
What can be immediately affirmed are the folly of polls and the upending of conventional wisdom. For example, uncertainty from a Trump victory was supposed to crater the stock market. Instead, our 401Ks have been treated to a very healthy post-election run.
One other thing is for sure. The lion’s share of pollsters, pundits, prognosticators, marketers, admen, TV commentators and Hollywood tastemakers – those who dictate American culture – were caught with their pants down.
A lot of highly-compensated people who allegedly know what Americans want but tend to live in protected bubbles, relying on abstract data instead of meeting real Americans to understand their daily lives, got it very wrong.
Marketers and data gurus are now second-guessing how they study consumers, gather and interpret data, and quantify the value of so-called “facts.”
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Madison Avenue execs are “spending too much time in their own heads, where aspirational messaging typically means showing people a ritzy life on the two metropolitan coasts, particularly in L.A. and New York.”
A fundamental re-set is occurring.
Agencies say they’ll hire more from rural areas. They’re vowing to do real in-market research. Instead of Googling Oklahoma, they’ll actually travel to Oklahoma. It’s like that wonderful old United Airlines commercial – the firm losing touch with clients so the boss hands out plane tickets for his people to visit important clients.
Predicting post-Trump fallout is a fool’s errand. But there appears to be increased appreciation and demand for all things which conjure images and emotions of “real America.” There’s a whole big country out there to be rediscovered.
That also means the cowboy – our most enduring American icon – is as hot as he or she has ever been as a property, with attendant values like hard-work, toughness, grit, self-reliance, and straight-talk back in vogue.
In the world of sports, not everyone is waving an American flag, as any NFL fan knows, but those inclined to do so are wearing their stars and bars on their sleeves more zealously than ever. While elections typically don’t impact the market for American flags, sales of Old Glory shot up 15% last year.
All this bodes well for Professional Bull Riders (PBR) which came within 30 seconds of canceling a major event in Charlotte last season when the arena was denying entry to the US Customs and Border Protection Agency (there to present our nation’s colors) because the federal uniformed agents were armed.
PBR could be compared to the Duck Dynasty phenomenon – ignored for years by mainstream media and conventional big brands until the sheer force of the show’s popularity demanded notice.
Billing itself as “America’s original extreme sport,” PBR now has 61 million fans, according to ESPN Sports Poll. Under new WME IMG ownership, ratings and attendance continued to rise in 2016. PBR on CBS viewership was +12% for the season, and half the Built Ford Tough Series events (13) broke local event attendance records.
PBR has never shied away from proclaiming a deep love of country, the heroes who fight for our freedoms, and a respect for the traditions that built America. Pro Bull Riding event openings may be the most patriotic in sports. Like NASCAR, it starts with a devout prayer. Uniquely, PBR was the only professional sport whose athletes signed a pledge to always stand for the performance of the national anthem.
This year, PBR is taking its unapologetic patriotism up a notch.
As the sport prepares to buck off the new season at Madison Square Garden on Friday, it is declaring 2017 The Celebrate America Tour.
The league says it will recognize heroes, support local charities, and seek to inspire youth in every market the Built Ford Tough Series visits.
Activities include: donating tickets (13,000 throughout the season) to veterans’ organizations; hosting deserving youth on the dirt to hear stories of cowboy values like toughness, courage, honesty and respect; donations to local children’s and veterans’ charities as well as to organizations such as Protect the Harvest and Future Farmers of America (FFA); and inviting genuine American heroes to perform the National Anthem at events.
The first hero to belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner” will be a wounded warrior who was blown up in Iraq (on Sept. 11, 2007, of all days). Sgt. John Hyland had 33 surgeries and lost a leg. He now sings opera. His truly incredible story and background is detailed in this biographical profile
For initiatives like Celebrate America to succeed, they must be authentic. The “A” word is often thrown around by marketers, sometimes carelessly. But being true to who you are is the essence of trust, integrity, and believability.
Love of country isn’t flavor of the month for bull riders, bull fighters, stock contractors and everyone in the industry professional bull riding has become. It’s something they’ve always felt.
PBR is building on 24 years of respect for veterans and the flag. The organization is smart to make its celebratory program hyper-local – supporting local charities and local heroes on 27 Built Ford Tough Series stops.
The sport believes its fervent flag-waving fan base will be all-in on the season’s new theme, and that others who never considered a bull riding ticket may now try a sport so deeply connected to traditional American values and the communities it visits.
But more important, lofty as it sounds, league officials say they sincerely believe a sport steeped in traditional Americana can help unite a bruised and fractured country.
“We have no grand illusions that these efforts will have a profound and immediate effect on a nation in need of healing,” wrote PBR CEO Sean Gleason in an employee note explaining Celebrate America. “But we will keep riding down the trail, spreading the cowboy values that are the bedrock of this great nation in the hope that our small contribution can make a difference.”