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2/13/2003

Get ready for a few rodeo tunes

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

COLORADO SPRINGS — In Western lifestyle terms, branding usually involves stamping a glowing orange iron against the flesh of a desperately unhappy beast.

But on Friday, the Professional Bull Riders Inc. announced a 50/50 joint venture with New York City-based Cherry Lane Music Publishing to brand the burgeoning franchise with music meant to draw increasingly diverse audiences.

“Music is the emotional underpinning of everything we see in the movies or on television,” explained Aida Gurwicz, Cherry Lane’s president. “Think about ‘Star Wars’ without that John Williams theme or ‘Jaws’ without the theme music. ... This music will convey the bravado of bull riding.”

She said negotiations, under way for the past year, produced Cherry Bull LLC, a publishing house set to debut the new PBR theme song — “Born to Ride” by Guy Thomas, a Cherry Lane staff composer/singer — Feb. 22 at a PBR competition in St. Louis, Mo.

Much like the Olympic theme, snippets of this tune will weave PBR’s personality into commercial “intros” and “outros,” Gurwicz said.

Cherry Lane has branded theme music to other sports organizations such as the World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly World Wrestling Federation) and the National Football League.

But the Cherry Bull venture aims to reach further, according to Sean Gleason, PBR’s chief operating officer.

When the music starts reaching an audience big enough to warrant putting it on compact disc, Cherry Bull hopes to sign a label that can get it on the radio.

PBR market studies show the average audience member prefers country music. But the song is rock-oriented, he said.

“Our events are attracting a large segment of the Western lifestyle demographic, but we’re positioning ourselves to a broader demographic,” Gleason explained.

Besides selling tickets and televising events, he said PBR has grown exponentially by exploring other avenues.

They include soliciting corporate sponsorships and licensing the PBR logo and trademark to approximately 30 third parties. For instance, Wrangler manufactures PBR jeans, shirts and other apparel. However, some form of branding has shown up on everything from stuffed animals shaped like bulls to belt buckles to slot machines.

Savvy marketing made PBR’s initial $20,000 investment — 20 bull riders each tossed $1,000 into a hat to establish bull riding as a stand-alone sport from rodeo — mushroom into a business that grossed $25 million in 2002, just 10 years after its inception, according to Gleason.

He said about 700 athletes participate in PBR and it attracts 1 million fans annually — making it one of the fastest-growing sports in North America.

“This is a bold step, for PBR to integrate music (into its marketing),” he said. “But it’s an important component of our live event and television product, and it fits into our overall long term business strategy.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.