The PBR has reached enormous heights in recent years, backed by some of the best riders and bulls in the world and a team of people inside and out of the arena that pushed the sport toward new horizons.
In that 24-year journey, two brands have stood with the PBR and have become synonymous with the premier bull riding tour in the world, Bud Light and Ford.
Through the PBR’s initial years as the Bud Light Cup, and later the Built Ford Tough Series, the brand partnerships, and the men who built them, helped lead the PBR from a motel room dream of 20 bull riders to an international phenomenon.
Those men, Bill Selman and Doug Scott, and their efforts earned them the 2017 Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award is given annually during the PBR’s Heroes & Legends Celebration in Las Vegas to a non-bull rider(s) whose efforts helped grow the PBR.
Selman, a now-retired marketing executive of the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, was one of the first people in corporate America to see the value of Western sports, and specifically the PBR. Under his guidance, Bud Light became PBR’s first title sponsor of its premier tour and helped guide the sport through its infancy.
Through Selman’s charismatic demeanor, and drive to find authentic experiences, the PBR’s Bud Light Cup grew into the premier bull riding circuit.
“Bill Selman was the man that made it all happen,” PBR CEO Sean Gleason said during a video interview honoring this year’s recipients. “He bled Bud Light, lived the lifestyle. He’d be the first one to show up and the last one to leave the party at the end of the night.”
For Selman, nothing quite match his experience with the PBR.
“I spent nearly 20 years with sports marketing at Anheuser-Bush and I had the privilege of working with a number of different groups, some of the major sports and major events in the country.” Selman said. “I do admit that working from the very beginning with the PBR was really fun thing to do, and I was happy to be a part of it and watch the growth of it.”
That authenticity later drew the attention of Doug Scott, a marketing manager at the Ford Motor Company for 39 years, who saw the PBR as the perfect partner for the iconic company.
Before retiring last December, Scott led the marketing team at Ford’s truck division and was always on the lookout for partners that truly embodied the ethos behind their famous tagline “Built Ford Tough.”
“When we first got associated, PBR was really just coming on the scene and it so much embodied what ‘Built Ford Tough’ was all about,” Scott said. “Pound-for-pound, PBR riders have to be the toughest athletes out there. It really was a good fit with our brand and what our trucks were all about.”
Ford became the title sponsor of the PBR’s top tour in 2003.
Throughout the partnership, Scott noticed just how hard the PBR worked to ensure that the partnership grew and became more than placing a brand name around the arena.
“People like Sean Gleason and Randy Bernard, they were great people to do that with and they always had the mentality to help the partnership work harder on both sides,” Scott said.
For Scott, authenticity has been the cornerstone of every Ford partnership, and the PBR helped deliver that at every opportunity.
“One of the hallmarks for us in our marketing efforts was to always make sure that we are authentic, and certainly nothing could be more authentic than PBR and the sport of bull riding,” Scott said. “That authenticity reinforced our brand.”
Like Selman, Scott was proud to have a hand in the PBR’s immense growth. While Selman and Anheuser-Busch helped grow the PBR through its infancy, Scott and Ford helped take it into the future. As the league has evolved into a global force that features the world best athletes, the richest events and reach around the world, Scott was humbled to have he and his team’s efforts recognized.
Scott was also quick to note that the partnership thrived as a group effort, and that the award belonged to his team just, as much as him.
“I’m glad that we were able to become a part of PBR’s growth and to contribute to that, but our goal all along was to build a strong relationship,” Scott said. “I’m thrilled with the honor, and I’ll accept the honor really on behalf of the whole Ford team because as with anything it’s not a single person. It was a team effort and we’re very much honored.”