By Barry Janoff
January 6, 2017: The 2017 Professional Bull Riders season begins in New York this weekend, and the circuit said it would be unlike any other in its history.
For starters, PBR said that, "Drawing on its rugged cowboy roots, PBR has a strong history of unapologetic patriotism. As the sport prepares to buck off the new season at Madison Square Garden, it is declaring 2017 'The Celebrate America Tour.'"
The Celebrate America Tour will be a season-long initiative to support local charitable causes, honor community heroes, and inspire youth across the nation, according to PBR.
The circuit’s top-tier Built Ford Tough Series is scheduled to visit some 20 states in 2017, during which Celebrate America will include financial, promotional and marketing support to local communities, "expanding on PBR’s commitment to unite our country and honor those heroes who defend it."
Riders will also see a change — in their wallets.
Following what it called the most successful year in the sport’s history, PBR said there would be an additional $1.5 million in prize money throughout the 2017 PBR worldwide event schedule.
Beginning with the Monster Energy Buck Off at Madison Square Garden (Jan. 6-8), each PBR Major will now pay out $250,000, with $100,000 to each winner for a total purse of $1 million across the four annual Majors.
In 2017, the total award money across PBR’s events for bull riders and stock contractors will top $11 million, the most in PBR history.
PBR said that viewership on CBS Sports last season was up +12% (1.3M average viewers per broadcast) and new attendance records were set during the 2016 tour.
PBR, which traces it roots back to 1992, was acquired in 2015 by marketing and talent agency WME | IMG.
Late last season, PBR released the largest integrated campaign in its history, "Vs," starring music icon and PBR fan Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The lead spot, "Hold On," finds Tyler in cowboy garb singing about the excitement of the cowboys vs. bulls sport.
The multi-media effort will get major exposure in and around local markets for150 domestic events in the U.S. and Canada this coming season.
According to PBR, more than $500,000 will be added to PBR prize money in the U.S. between the elite Built Ford Tough Series and the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour, the sport’s premier expansion series.
PBR tours in Canada, Brazil, Australia and Mexico will also increase their prize purse in the 2017 season. In addition, more than $700,000 of new prize money will be available to the top bull riders in the world as part of the first PBR Global Cup event, scheduled for November in Edmonton, Alberta’s Rogers Place.
Among other Celebrate America initiatives during the 2017 season, PBR will "recognize, honor, and support veterans and active duty military members" by donating 13,000 tickets to Vet Tix, "allowing them to enjoy the sport at no cost."
PBR will expand its financial and promotional support to Jared Allen’s Home for Wounded Warriors, founded by the retired NFL star, who is a PBR stock contractor and an ambassador for the sport.
PBR said it would continue to "prominently feature veterans, active duty military, first responders and other hometown heroes in its openings. "
In collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of America, PBR said it would expand its efforts to inspire youth by hosting interested and deserving young people at Built Ford Tough Series events.
Bull riders, bull fighters and stock contractors will "share personal stories showcasing cowboy values such as hard work, determination, honor, integrity, passion, courage and respect and then entertain these youth at the PBR event." PBR will also donate to the Boys and Girls Club in each market.
PBR said it would promote and donate to such organizations as Protect the Harvest and Future Farmers of America, which “support and recognize America’s hard-working farmers, ranchers and others who put food on our tables and have helped create the sport."
Concurrently, PBR will expand its efforts to support “reputable local animal welfare causes in honor of the sport’s animal athletes, who will also continue to receive the very best care and attention."
"PBR has always been about bringing people together to enjoy a great American sport built on traditional cowboy values,” PBR CEO Sean Gleason said in a statement. "Our goal is simple: To share these values, influence youth one child at a time, celebrate our heroes, and do our part to unite our nation.
"These are the kind of individuals who make up the PBR fan base in America and all over the world. We are grateful for our fans’ passion, loyalty, and support, and we plan to Celebrate America in their name," said Gleason.
Regarding the boost in prize money, Gleason said, "PBR offers the richest payouts in bull riding — awarding more than $170 million since our 1992 founding — and our cowboys and bull stock contractors deserve every penny."
In addition to Ford, national PBR partners include Wrangler, Jack Daniel’s, Stanley, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Cooper Tires, Bass Pro Shops, Monster Energy, Lucas Oil, Kawasaki and Caterpillar.
See the full schedule here.
Bull Shot: PBR Marketing Goes Big With Bulls, ‘Boys, Steven Tyler
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