The ride has only just begun

Jim Haworth sees great things on the horizon in 2012.


  • In 10 months, Jim Haworth has assessed the PBR team, implemented a new television package, launched a new website, and remained focused on PBR fans and athletes.
  • A comprehensive study has provided new insight into fan expectations and needs.
  • The heavy press coverage the PBR received in 2011, along with a new, multi-network television package in 2012 will present bull riding as a mainstream sport to millions more.

In This Article

PUEBLO, Colo. - Jim Haworth can't help but marvel at how quickly his first year has gone by, and he's excited about what's to come in 2012.

It's been a whirlwind 10 months since Haworth took over as the PBR's Chief Executive Officer in February.

He had a three-stage approach to getting the organization ready for the upcoming season, which gets underway Jan. 6, 7 and 8 in New York.

"When you come in you have to assess and get to know the team," Haworth said. "We had events going every weekend - at that time of the year we're going full speed. It's not like you can say, 'OK, stop and let me get caught up.'"

He came aboard in the midst of a 19-week run of consecutive Built Ford Tough Series events, with the only pause coming Easter weekend.

Upon his arrival, Haworth made sure he met everyone - riders, stock contractors, staff, crew members on the road and fans - and listened to everything they had to say.

He moved his family to Pueblo, Colo., made trips to see events in Brazil, Canada and Australia, and began to devise short-term and long-term plans for the PBR before finally beginning to execute those plans. During the planning stage there were positions open, and positions, he said, that needed to be changed.

'I think we've put together and built a really good team.'

A big part of the process was examining the dynamic between live production, telecasts, ticket sales, public relations and the well being of everyone involved in the PBR.

"You need to build the right team that is interested in our sport," Haworth explained, "but talented enough to help take us to a new level.

"I think we've put together and built a really good team."

During his first few months, Haworth said he was fortunate to have experienced executives like Sean Gleason, Jay Daugherty, Dave Cordovano and Rodd Granger to turn to. Over the past few months, he's brought in Josephine Lafayette, Terry Bassett, Jon Sager, Barry McMullin and Kandie Strickland.

"They've embraced and enhanced what we do, and are going to help us take it to a new level," said Haworth. "More than anything I'm the most proud of the team and watching the dynamics of that come together. The team really pulled together and it made a difference.

"I'm really looking forward to 2012."

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Jim Haworth congratulates the NFL's Chad Ochocinco in Duluth, Ga.

In the summer and fall of last year, an extensive fan study greatly impacted the "Buckle Up" campaign for 2012.

The study looked at core fans and newer casual fans, as well fans who see the BFTS on television compared to those who come to live events.

What they found was that because the economy hasn't rebounded, a renewed focus was needed on $10 ticket prices, while the television audience needed to be accommodated with a multi-network plan that provides more coverage than any previous year in the PBR's existence.

It's the same strategy used by the NFL, which broadcasts games on five different networks.

Buoyed by a ratings spike in the fall, the BFTS will be broadcast on CBS, CBS Sports Network, NBC and the newly branded NBC Sports (formerly Versus).

"The audience we get with CBS and NBC will allow us to get more exposure to our current fan base and also additional fans that we need for this great sport," Haworth said.

By being shown on networks known for featuring mainstream sports like the NFL, NBA, NCAA college basketball and football, PGA and the Olympics, the PBR is perceived as a strong, viable and growing sports property.

'It all ends up so we can pay it back to our riders in prize money.'

"There are different ways you can try to expand the sport," Haworth said. "(Viewers) might have to think through where we're at, but they're going to have more places where they can watch bull riding.

"All of this lets us pay out as much as we do to our riders, so we're trying to work on the sponsorship and the television and try to reach our fans, and drive ticket sales, but it all ends up so we can pay it back to our riders in prize money."

In 2011, the bulls - namely Bushwacker - have given the PBR a boost in media coverage.

Bushwacker was twice featured in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times in 2011, and was highlighted by ESPN, CNN and other news organizations.

"We always say, 'We have two great athletes in every ride,' but our bulls gave us a lot more exposure," Haworth said. "I think that Bushwacker not only winning the World Champion Bull title but helping us get that kind of exposure was fantastic."

A new state-of-the-art website was launched prior to the World Finals.

But Haworth said it's more than a website, and is merely the start to a whole new digital platform that will further connect fans to the sport. One new enhancement is that the television broadcasts will be augmented with several live YouTube streams.

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Jim Haworth (right) shares a laugh with Brendon Clark (center) and Colby Yates during Flint Rasmussen's "Outside the Barrel" show at the 2011 World Finals.

The coming year will also feature a four-event stadium tour that includes the Georgia Dome, Reliant Stadium (in Houston), Cowboys Stadium and Ford Field (in Detroit).

The PBR has been to Atlanta in years past, and this year marks the third year in a row the Iron Cowboy Invitational has been held at Cowboys Stadium. Haworth is also looking forward to the other two stadium events.

"We're a part of the Houston Rodeo and the history that goes with that," he said, "and not just a part of it, but we're kicking it off as an event … it's going to be one of the key things that allows them to lead into the rest of the rodeo.

"It's exciting to think that we're going to be a part of it."

The Detroit event is being hosted "in the backyard of Ford, our key sponsor."  Haworth is convinced that loyal PBR supporters from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and beyond will travel to Ford Field.

He remembers being at a BFTS event in St. Louis and meeting fans who had traveled from Oregon. On another occasion, he can recall meeting some fans from New York who had traveled to Milwaukee. It's a passion for many that mirrors the college football atmosphere.

In fact, on a weekly basis, he was surprised "by how far out fans travel to come watch us."

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