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Rebrand an Established Sports Tour: The PBA

It was the year 2000, and 3 former Microsoft geniuses bought the fledgling PBA Tour which was about to go bankrupt for 5 million dollars. The Tour had started back in the days of black and white television and when there was no other competition for viewers of sports programming. There was The Wide World of Sports and there was the Professional Bowlers Tour. Eddie Elias got together a band of the original pros on the tour, and created the organization in Akron, Ohio.

Fast forward to 2000, and you have niche sports all with their own networks and the world had all but forgotten about the PBA. Enter the Microsoft guys. They saw an opportunity to own an entire league and be able to shape and control its destiny. They hired Ian Hamilton to be the new commissioner and he put the new team together to launch the PBA into its new existence. Ian started by hiring Nonbox to do a complete re-branding and marketing campaign.

The task was to re-launch the nearly forgotten league by applying modern day marketing practices and storytelling with the athletes. The key to that relaunch would happen on ESPN with a newly negotiated television package that included: a regular schedule of live telecasts, the creation of a “season” and the ability to dimensionalize the players through a promo campaign and features in the telecasts.

After getting off to a rocky start the tour enjoyed television ratings that on a regular basis drew better numbers than the NHL and regional college basketball. The PBA Tour continues to enjoy its success and remains a viable television property after having recently sealed a new deal with FOX Sports for the upcoming 2019 season.

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