TMR Q&A: PBR Commissioner & CEO Sean Gleason on rodeo’s return (with Kid Rock), teams taking off and cowboy culture craze

Based in Pueblo, Colo., PBR, for Professional Bull Riders, was formed in 1992 when nine-time World Champion Ty Murray and 19 of the world’s top rodeo stars came together, pooling together $1,000 each, to form their own breakaway organization, striving for mainstream attention for rodeo’s most popular discipline, bull riding.

In 2007, Spire Capital Partners finalized a deal with PBR to acquire the interests of many of the retired founding riders and invest in the growth of the organization.

Then in May 2015, Endeavor acquired PBR from Spire and other remaining PBR shareholders. Shortly thereafter, Sean Gleason, who had served as PBR’s COO for 15 years, was elevated to CEO in June 2015, where he remains today, overseeing tremendous growth for PBR in attendance, partnerships (both media and corporate) and revenues.

In 2024, PBR claims more than 800 bull riders competing in over 200 events annually held in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico in front of nearly 1.3 million fans, in competitions such as:

Monster Energy has been a PBR sponsor since 2011; among the brand’s current entitlements is sponsorship of the PBR World Finals
  • Unleash The Beast
  • Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour
  • Camping World Team Series
  • PBR Challenger Series
  • Touring Pro Division

Under Gleason’s stewardship, PBR’s impressive corporate partnerships roster has only grown. Current national partner brands include (listed alphabetically):

Air Force Reserve Kubota Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Anheuser-Busch Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority* Sonic
Ariat Lincoln Electric South Point
Bass Pro Shops Lucas Oil Tractor Supply Co.
Beat Box Beverages MGM U.S. Border Patrol
Boot Barn Monster Energy Visit Corpus Christi
Camping World Montana Silversmiths Visit Fort Worth
Can-Am Morgan & Morgan Walmart Health & Wellness
Cooper Tires Peak Antifreeze Wrangler* 
Curt Trailer Hitches Pendleton Whisky Yeti
GovX Priefert *Denotes partner since PBR’s 1992 debut


For our latest TMR Q&A, we asked Gleason to share his insights on how the organization looks to maintain its growth and capitalize on cultural trends, all while continuing PBR’s original mission of gaining mainstream attention for bull riding.

Below is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

Team Marketing Report: PBR was founded nearly 32 years ago when 20 bull riding cowboys broke from the rodeo to form a standalone sport focused exclusively on bull riding – typically the final part of a rodeo. Now you’re about to co-produce a giant $1-million rodeo…with Kid Rock…in the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Why is PBR back in the rodeo business? And why do so with Kid Rock’s Rock N Rodeo?

Sean Gleason: Rodeo athletes often ask us, “Can you do for rodeo what you did for bull riding?”

Considering what’s made PBR so successful for three decades while rodeo has struggled to grow, we asked our own question: “How can we do something bold and different to elevate rodeo as entertainment and a sport?”

Kid Rock is a big Western sports fan. In talking rodeo, we decided now is the time to shake up both the competition format and presentation of rodeo in an elevating way that helps all rodeo organizations. Seeing the success of the PBR Teams league launched in 2022, we landed on a million-dollar, team-based, bracket-style rodeo mashed into Kid Rock performing live in concert.

This is an evolution of rodeo as a sport and a revolution of rodeo as entertainment – unique, different and fun – all happening on Friday, May 17 at AT&T Stadium leading off the biggest weekend in Western sports with PBR World Finals Championship to follow on Saturday and Sunday.

If you think PBR is pretty good at marketing and production, well, Bob – that’s Kid Rock’s offstage name when spinning ideas – is fantastic. Who else rides into the press conference unveiling their namesake event decked out in black with gold sequins? (Laughs). He’s become a true partner, not just someone we view as a megastar performer.

TMR: Tell us more about that Teams league. After two seasons, you’re expanding in New York and Oklahoma City. How have valuations changed with expansion?

SG: PBR Teams is the most successful sports league launch in the past 25 years. I don’t think anyone anticipated the new league would expand so quickly.

Beginning in July, 10 teams will compete in the now-lengthened 12-event PBR Camping World Team Series season

Founding teams sold for around $3 million; heading into our third season, bidding on the sanctions for the two expansion teams started at $20 million each.

For about three decades, PBR was an individual sport winning fans one at a time.

With Teams complementing individual competition, we’re more engaging to the casual fan and easier for sports media to cover. We’re building local fan bases, engaging them year-round locally for the first time. Team rivalries are forming. And we’re marketing more broadly in a splashier way.

In fact, with the start of March Madness, we’ve launched the first national campaign for the PBR Camping World Team Series which will include spots on CBS and TBS during the Tournament.

TMR: We’ve seen you post on social media about PBR’s sellouts this year, including 12 in February alone. What accounts for this sport being so hot? Any good stats to share?   

SG: By mid-March we have already sold out 30 events in what should be a record year. Overall, PBR event attendance reached 1.25 million fans in 2023, and we should eclipse that come December.

PBR’s recent “Be Cowboy” ad campaign (running 2019-21), successfully encouraged anyone, anywhere to embrace their inner cowboy

Our aggregate unique TV viewership surpassed 40 million viewers last year. PBR is a prolific sport on CBS and CBS Sports Network with more than 100 hours of programming annually, reaching 294 million global households.

Our events are available on any phone any time on PlutoTV through live and on-demand streaming and in Spanish-language on Univision.

And we’ve enjoyed a surge in brand partnerships, which have nearly doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic.

We didn’t get to this point through radical reinvention. Sure, we’ve constantly innovated our competition formats and event presentation. But for the most part, we’ve followed the success formula from Day One: the world’s best bull riders matched up with the best bulls. Every time fans show up, they see the best bull and cowboy athletes. Our product will always center on those eight thrilling seconds.

The nature of bull riding makes it one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting sport. It’s a lightweight paired with a heavyweight, a 150-pound cowboy trying to conquer an 1,800-pound bull born to buck in eight seconds of utter unpredictability. Watching modern-day gladiators is exciting at its core.

160over90, also part of the Endeavor Network, is PBR’s AOR with current creative (above) supporting the third season of PBR Teams that begins in July

We wrap those thrilling eight seconds into an unforgettable entertainment experience. The hardest-working crew in live sports and entertainment transforms basketball and hockey arenas to bull-riding meccas by bringing more lights, pyro, sound and video than any other touring sport.

I remember looking up the rafters after the final bull bucked and the house lights came up at both Madison Square Garden and Arena earlier this season. I don’t think a single fan had left – everyone on their feet for that last ride. They would have stayed for another 10…in New York and LA!

What a tribute to the appeal of PBR.

TMR: One might postulate—the success of “Yellowstone” and rise of “cowboy culture” has had a positive effect on PBR’s visibility and “hip factor.” Has that movement helped fuel PBR’s growth and, if so, how?

SG: No question, there has been a resurgence in interest in Western lifestyle and Western sports. Candidly, we had a lot to do with that. We’ve been around for 31 years, bringing cowboys into the mainstream and marketing not just the sport but our values. “Yellowstone” put that interest on steroids.

We also have compelling shoulder programming drawing new audiences like the Netflix docuseries following our Brazilian riders called “Fearless,” which considering today’s diner-sized menu of sports docuseries, was ahead of its time in 2016, and more recently “The Ride” on Prime Video.

We brought in [“Yellowstone” star] Cole Hauser as a brand ambassador to connect with new fans by emphasizing our cowboy values. Cole will be doing a lot more with us including hosting an Ultimate Tailgate Party at World Finals.

We’ve also brought in 160over90 as our AOR to help increase the national profile of our brand and help stoke our momentum.

Other shoulder programing along with news coverage has also helped amplify our unprecedented overall growth.

PBR’s inaugural “music and rodeo mash-up” will be held in May at AT&T Stadium, with $1 million in prize money – infused with Kid Rock performances before and during the event

We’re embracing the rodeo by launching Kid Rock’s Rock N Rodeo, which we envision as a concept that can expand, on top of supporting the WCRA, Women’s Rodeo World Championship and the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

A lot of organic hard work over the years has gotten us to this point. The Western resurgence is a nice tailwind to ride in our continuing journey of winning over new fans and asserting our leadership in Western sports.

TMR: Looking ahead to the rest of 2024, 2025 and beyond, what are the biggest challenges your sport faces and how do you overcome them?

SG: Generating awareness and debunking preconceptions about us tops the list.

The New York Mavericks have their inaugural PBR Camping World Team Series homestand on August 9-10, following 17 years of hard work, developing a loyal fan base in and around New York City as the individual competition tour visited Madison Square Garden.

Early on, I was handing out tickets on 7th Avenue. I remember a guy with face piercings and a mohawk pointing me out – I was wearing a cowboy hat.

Today, we sell out The Garden. Thousands stream in with cowboy hats and boots. Now, Greater New York has their own bull riding team to root for at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Success in New York demonstrates the long, hard road we travel to introduce new fans to the sport and win them one at a time. Bull riding is a unique proposition for people who don’t know anyone who rides or have minimal exposure to the sport.

“For the uninitiated who give us a chance, PBR turns out different than their preconceptions about dirt sports or athletes in cowboy hats. More often than not, we win them for life.”


Most new fans come in believing PBR is not for them. They had an opinion forced on them, or simply assumed they’d have no interest. They may have heard lies about the animals – who are remarkable athletes who are born to buck, get the best care, live a great long life, are spared the death sentence condemning all other male bovines and get treated like kings.

For the uninitiated who give us a chance, PBR turns out different than their preconceptions about dirt sports or athletes in cowboy hats. More often than not, we win them for life.

The short answer is: Get them into the tent. They’ll get hooked like so many others before.

Sellout crowds are turning out to watch PBR athletes such as 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco, a native of Brazil who has won more than $4.4 million in prize money on the circuit PBR


To view past TMR Q&As, click here.

All images courtesy of PBR