Since private equity firm Spire Capital Partners took controlling interest in 2007, the Professional Bull Riders has undergone some major changes, including strengthening its leadership ranks and emphasizing the recruitment of sponsors in non-endemic categories.

The organization earlier this year hired sports marketing veteran Jeffrey Pollack as executive chairman after Randy Bernard, who had been PBR CEO for 15 years, left to take the same position with the Indy Racing League.

More recently, the PBR hired former Bank of America and MillerCoors sponsorship executive Dockery Clark as chief marketing officer and promoted Kevin Camper to chief partnership & sales officer.

IEG SR recently spoke with Camper about the changes at the PBR, new deals signed over the past year and other topics. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation.

IEG SR: What is your role at the PBR?

Camper: I joined the PBR in September 2009, and partnership marketing and sales is where I live. My goal is to keep and grow the partners we have, as well as attract new partners. The PBR has done a good job getting endemic partners, and we have branched out and pulled in some nonendemic partners over the past several years.

I want to attract blue-chip companies without alienating any of our core partners in the Western industry. I want to show them how we can help market their products and drive retail traffic.

One of the things that attracted me to the PBR is the product. We have the best two hours and 15 minutes of sport with entertainment intertwined. The PBR is literally the original extreme sport. Our guys are unbelievably brave, courageous and a little insane. It’s an extremely genuine and authentic sport, which is something that resonates right now.

IEG SR: How have things changed since the Spire Capital investment?

Camper: In the past, Randy Bernard and Sean Gleason (PBR COO who has added the CEO title) led the charge on almost every front. When our ownership changed from 20 cowboys to Spire, one of the first initiatives was to make sure we have the right leadership in place, as well as people to build our business lines and maximize revenue.

IEG SR: Looking externally, what sponsorship trends are you seeing?

Camper: The sports and entertainment industries have to be more diligent in terms of research. Companies are conducting more analysis and establishing metrics to determine the return on their investments.

That is no different from the past several years, but it is even more important today as a result of tighter marketing budgets.

The value proposition also has to be there. The PBR has been a very nimble organization over the past 16 years. If the needs of a sponsor change, we will change with them. If something isn’t working in the second year of a five-year contract, we will figure out what do differently. That may include giving them new assets.

That type of approach will become more important as we move forward. Technology and social media changes incredibly fast, and the world we live in today may not look the same 12 months from now. The days of “buy this billboard” and “this is what you get” are long gone. You have to reinvent yourself as the marketplace changes.

IEG SR: What has been happening in the last year for the PBR in terms of new sponsors?

Camper: We brought on Dish Network and Tecate Light beer in a deal with importer Heineken USA. The beer category has been open for the past couple of years since Bud Light stepped away, and we are excited to have it filled.

We also brought on Rockstar in the energy drink category. The sponsorship makes all the sense in the world. Our athletes are young and they resonate with the energy drink category.

We are also fortunate to have a new national partner in Bad Boy Mowers, which is a strong up-and-coming brand, and we did a nice hospitality deal with Lincoln Electric, which is in place for the next couple of years.

IEG SR: How about renewals?

Camper: We extended our partnership with Brown Forman and the Jack Daniel’s brand, as well as our partnership with the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, which has been another longstanding partner.

We also extended our partnership with apparel manufacturer Williamson-Dickie for the next several years.

Everyone talks about “flat being the new up.” From a financial standpoint, we have kept our partnerships above or at similar levels without giving away the farm. That speaks well about our growth over the past three or four years.

IEG SR: What categories are you exploring?

Camper: We are focused on a handful of categories, including tools—which makes a lot of sense based on our customer base—wireless, insurance, and timing and scoring.

Timing and scoring is a ripe category for what we do. Everything revolves around an eight-second ride. A sponsor in the timing and scoring category would be spot on, and there are a lot of ways that we could activate the partnership.

The nonalcoholic beverage category also is open. We have a partner in the energy drink category, but not a Coke, Pepsi or Dr Pepper. That’s something that makes a lot of sense as well.

IEG SR: How is your sponsorship sales effort structured?

Camper: We begin our approach from a global perspective. We have events in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Australia, and we look for companies with a presence in those markets.

We have 28 to 30 Built Ford Tough Series stops, which is our tier one product, much like the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Our national team sells against that platform for the entire season. Our national partnerships can also include TV inventory on Versus, as well as NBC and CBS.

We have one person in New York City who sells those packages, and we are about to fill another position there that has been open for the past month to give us two people pounding the pavement.

We also work with two agencies: Brian Corcoran’s Shamrock Sports Group and Patrick Connors’ Gravitate Sports Marketing. I brought them in this year to give us more bandwidth.

On the local level, I have three people who sell against events in their regions.

The local and regional programs they work on are typically built around traffic-driving elements with quick-service restaurant chains, supermarkets and home improvement companies. We send riders to the stores for autograph sessions, and bring out our merchandise haulers and mechanical bulls.