SBJ/October 17-23, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

PBR reworks its digital delivery

Professional Bull Riders has introduced a new suite of digital products, a key piece of the property’s effort to take greater overall control of its media assets.

The organization has rolled out a dramatically redesigned website at PBR.com and built in partnership with San Diego-based Lightmaker North America and a series of other vendors, along with introducing new mobile and tablet applications and a heightened social media presence.

A new website is only part of the package.
The launches for the products arrive in advance of the property’s World Finals Oct. 26-30 in Las Vegas and are the result of nearly two years of internal work and reorganization.

“We’ve taken a lot of time to rethink our entire media strategy, bringing our TV production in-house, and so forth,” said Sean Gleason, PBR president and chief operating officer. “So this is a lot more than just a new face to the website. It’s a total rework to how we’re producing and distributing content in general. And the result is that we can now feed content to any device or destination.”

The total cost of the new products was between $1.75 million and $2 million.

The new-look PBR.com includes a large battery of live and on-demand video material, including the PBR Live Event Center featuring live data, highlights and alternate camera angles. A mobile website and free smartphone and tablet applications for the iOS and Android platforms will be released later this month. Spanish and Portuguese-language versions of the sites, tapping into the heavy South American fan interest and rider heritage in the sport, are slated for early 2012.

The bulls themselves have always been an integral part of PBR, but they take on even greater prominence with the new digital products, receiving the same individual pages and professional-grade portrait photography that the riders get.
The revamped digital structure will also feature more coordinated integration between the online and mobile properties, including a single sign-on for fans.

“Before you had a separate content management system, a separate e-commerce platform, a separate social media platform, and so forth, and none of them talked to each other,” said Ben Philyaw, president for Lightmaker North America, whose prior sports clients include Manchester United, tennis star Maria Sharapova and The R&A. “It really made for a suboptimal user experience.”

PBR has also been aided in its digital revamp by Connecticut-based industry consultancy Convergence Sports & Media, headed by former AOL, NHL and NFL Properties executive Tom Richardson.

PBR’s online scale remains quite small relative to other U.S. major league sports properties, posting 387,000 unique visitors in September, according to internal metrics. But the figure is a 35 percent jump compared with the same month in 2010.

Additionally, PBR has generated more than 240,000 fans on Facebook, a figure more comparable to other teams and events in the stick-and-ball sports.

“There hasn’t been much of huge push toward our digital products before. That’s going to change in a big way,” Gleason said.

Among the marketing vehicles for the digital products will be in-broadcast promotion, in-arena signs, email and social media campaigns.

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