Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An 8-Second Ride Lures Sponsors Beyond the Rodeo

JUSTIN McBRIDE and Adriano Moraes are hardly household names, but advertisers are betting that these bull riders — who compete for prize money by trying to stay on a bucking bull for eight seconds — could represent the next big thing in sports sponsorship.

The sport’s dominant association, the Professional Bull Riders, already has 20 sponsors, including Ford, Wrangler, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Jack Daniel’s. It stages more than 100 contests a year, some of them broadcast on NBC and many more available for download on YouTube. The popularity of the sport as an “extreme” form of entertainment has many media and marketing executives salivating.

“Professional Bull Riders has a great story; it has live attendance growth. The number of events and TV viewership have both been growing every year,” said David Abrutyn, a senior vice president at IMG Consulting, who puts advertisers together with established and emerging sports franchises.

Bull riding counts its season as January through November, so now is the time that executives at Professional Bull Riders are lining up sponsorship deals. Since the sport is new to TV, the prices are low. National packages — which can include ringside signs, tour title sponsorships and media time — cost $1 million to $2 million, according to Sean Gleason, chief marketing officer of the Professional Bull Riders. On the lower end, an advertiser might buy local exposure for $500,000 or less, he said.

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