Bull riding: Could you do it?

Posted at 9:35 AM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-15 11:35:32-04

The first step is just to stay alive.

There are no timeouts. No towels to throw in. 

There is only one man, one bull, and eight desperate seconds.

More than 23 years ago, 20 men invested $1,000 each to get the Professional Bull Riders group launched.

In just two decades, the dream of 20 bull riders has grown into a global phenomenon that has seen more than $150 million in prize money awarded. The PBR turns 23 in 2016, and will award more than $10 million in prize money, including a $1 million bonus to the PBR World Champion, the season’s best bull rider.

Headquartered in Pueblo, Colo., the Professional Bull Riders was created in 1992 by a group of 20 visionary bull riders who broke away from the traditional rodeo scene. The group was seeking mainstream attention for the sport of professional bull riding, the most popular sport at a rodeo.

“We wanted to create a better product for the fans, so that when they tuned in they were seeing the best of the best every time,” said the PBR co-founder and nine-time World Champion Ty Murray. “Expectations have been exceeded immensely and the fact that this sport continues to grow is a gratifying notion, one that supports all the hard work and dedication of every member of the PBR.”

The founders believed that bull riding deserved to be in the limelight and that it could succeed as a standalone sport. Each rider invested a hard earned $1,000, some borrowing from family and friends, to start the PBR.

“This is the only sport in the world that I can take ANYONE to see, whether they know anything about it or not, and I guarantee you that they won’t be able to take their eyes off of it,” says Murray.

In 2007, Spire Capital Partners finalized a deal with the PBR Board of Directors to acquire the interests of many of the retired founding riders and invest in the growth of the organization. Those first 20 bull riders had turned their $1,000 into millions.



This is the PBR

In May 2015, the PBR was acquired completely by WME|IMG, the global leader in sports, entertainment, media and fashion.

More than 600 bull riders from the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico hold PBR memberships. They compete in more than 300 bull riding events each year on either the nationally televised Built Ford Tough Series, the BlueDEF Tour, or the Touring Pro Division, the developmental tour of the PBR. There are also tours in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. The ultimate goal is to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas, the richest bull-riding event on the planet, with the winner receiving the World Championship buckle and a $1 million bonus.

The 20 original founders took a serious gamble when they pooled their limited resources to fund the grassroots operation, but the risk has certainly paid off. Investors like Spire Capital Partners and WME|IMG, and partnerships with Ford, Wrangler, Jack Daniel’s, Dickies®, and the city of Las Vegas have helped the PBR annually award more than $10 million.

The success of the PBR has made it one of the most prolific sports on television. The elite Built Ford Tough Series is televised every week on CBS, CBS Sports Network and networks around the world, and PBR broadcasts reach more than half a billion households in 40 nations and territories.

The combination of raw sport and quality entertainment has propelled live attendance growth as well. Annual attendance of more than 3 million fans each season, compared to 310,000 in 1995, indicates that the PBR is making an indelible impression.

The PBR has rapidly transformed one of the fastest-growing sports in America into a worldwide phenomenon. Capitalizing on the popularity of bull riding around the world, the PBR has attracted many international athletes who have traveled to the United States to compete exclusively in the PBR.