The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Australia Tour is known as the “toughest sport on dirt,” and has amassed 1.6 million devoted fans across the country since its arrival in 2005.
The driving force behind it all is PBR Australia General Manager and Townsville local, Glen Young. As a former bull rider himself, Glen spent time developing local events before joining forces with World Champion bull rider Troy Dunn to pioneer the inaugural PBR events in Australia, modelled from the successful format in the USA.
Since this time, Australia has become one of five countries that stage PBR events around the world. The national tour offers world points that enables the athletes to compete on home soil as well as in the world tour if they qualify.
“Our main goal was to offer a genuine pathway for Australian bull riders to earn substantial prize money in Australia and to compete on the world stage,” says Glen.
“There is now approximately $650K in prize money on the PBR Australia annual tour, which is providing the riders with income, the pathway and the ability to become professional athletes.”
However, breaking into a new market was certainly no easy feat. Glen sought inspiration from other examples, such as Lawn Bowls, to see how it was getting television coverage, and from this, began repackaging PBR to make it more mainstream.
“In the early days, we would count the empty cans at the end of the night to understand the market share for each alcohol brand and sit in the crowd to see what the audience responded well to throughout the events,” says Glen.
“We listened to feedback to help shape the format and entertainment for the events; all which played a key part in building the sport.”
Glen says partnering with Townsville Enterprise to stage the Troy Dunn International in the early 2000’s was a crucial learning opportunity in creating destination events.
“The support from the Council and our corporate partners has been tremendous and the business support changed the way I thought about what we could do with PBR,” says Glen.
“We used destination tourism marketing and placed an annual calendar of events so fans could follow the sport, which ultimately helped grow the fan base. Towns need that business but also the social engagement that comes from this, and we make sure we deliver a consistent product in each market.”
Thanks to this strategic approach, the PBR have not only grown their fan base, but created mutually beneficial partnerships and experienced a 30% sponsorship increase compared to last year.
The PBR Australia Grand Finals, which is the richest bull riding event in the southern hemisphere, will return to Townsville on November 3 and 4 for the sixth consecutive year. The event injects approximately $2.9 million in direct and incremental spending into the local economy every year, and has played a key role in putting Townsville on the map as a premier events-destination.
“When it came to picking a home for the Grand Finals, it was the ongoing support of Townsville fans and Council that made it an easy decision to locate it in the town where we first launched PBR,” says Glen.
“It attracts so many out-of-town visitors and it’s a great opportunity to bring the country to the city, and with that brings an economic boost for the community and region.
“The continuous improvement in the quality of bulls and the calibre of the riders has led to sold-out venues across Australia in both regional and metropolitan areas.
“We also have our Junior Academy, which provides training and mentoring to our next generation of bull riders.
“We’re always looking ahead for how to make the sport better and if we sell out an event, we’re always looking for options to increase capacity for next time. It’s all about the long-term game.”
Main image: Glen Young, PBR Australia General Manager.
Image credit: All images supplied by PBR.
PBR Australia Grand Finals will be held on Friday 3rd November (tickets selling fast) and Saturday 4th November (sold out).
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