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Unleashing The Beast

Neil Van Orsow, ‘05

Neil Van Orsow came to Mesa to play football. A defensive nose tackle from Las Vegas, Nevada, Van Orsow studied business and met his future wife, Julie, before graduating in 2005.

Degree in hand, Van Orsow returned to Las Vegas for a marketing position at The Mirage Hotel. While at The Mirage, he became familiar with the National Finals Rodeo, a 10-day extravaganza that consumes the city each December. And while it wasn’t immediately clear, the connections he made in the western sporting world during these early days would eventually lead him to professional bull riding.

Four years ago, Van Orsow was recruited by Professional Bull Riders (PBR) to be their vice president for live event marketing. Having previously relocated to Denver with his wife and young sons, Easton and Alston, Van Orsow accepted and began promoting what he describes as “two and a half hours of the best part of the rodeo.”

Van Orsow manages all aspects of marketing for two national tours. This includes social media, digital promotions, public relations, ticket sales, and revenue and budget management.

Unleash the Beast is PBR’s marquee series featuring the top 35 bull riders in the world riding the top 35 bulls. The Velocity Tour is the aspirational tour where riders compete to earn points and qualify for Unleash the Beast. Together, the two tours include 60 events from New York to California.

Attracting younger fans is one of Van Orsow’s challenges and an area where he sees growth.


“Our fans tend to be older, but when the younger crowd comes in they discover that bull riding is exciting and cool. With a 90% retention rate, we’re creating fans for life,” said Van Orsow.

Looking back at CMU, Van Orsow credits his classes and the “camaraderie and team atmosphere of football” for helping him get to where he is today.

“From the professors to the staff to the coaches to everyone, I couldn’t do it without CMU.” •

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Written by Kristen Lummis