Why Rodeo is one of the most Marketable Sports, but still not Mainstream.
The other night, I went with my friend to the movies, when the trailer for The Longest Ride came on. I heard as girls around me started to gasp at the cowboys good looks and proceed to say, “I need me a cowboy.” My best friend even asked me, “That’s what you’re working with? Oh, count me in.” I just started to laugh and think, how is it possible that a sport that contains so many attractive and unique individuals, not more mainstream? This caused to me to think back on my experience in New York, where my roommates asked me if my Justin Boots, were real. Seriously? There are fake cowboy boots? I would often tell my roommates stories about some of my friends in the industry and they were amazed that rodeo is a sport. They even went as far to say that the only rodeo that they have ever seen, was on Friday Night Lights. As rodeo fans, we laugh at this comment. Yet, as a journalist, this comment worries me. So, for a moment, I encourage you to read this blog from a business perspective.
COMMON STEREOTYPES OF THE RODEO ATHLETE:
When you mention rodeo to a non-rodeo fan, you might hear the words: “Uneducated, redneck, not athletic,” the list goes on and on. I’m sorry, but I have to laugh at how simple minded some people are. Rodeo athletes are uneducated? If I was to pull up a list of interviews with professional football players, compared to a rodeo athlete, you would be speechless. Several rodeo athletes attended college and competed in both college rodeo and professional rodeo, at the same time. Some of them became millionaires off an eight second ride, before even graduating college. As far as saying that the rodeo athlete is not athletic, several of these athletes work out with the same workout routine as professional athletes in other industries. Take Tyson Durfey for example, he trains with former Dallas Cowboy, Jay Novacek. It takes athletic ability to be able to compete in every rodeo event and you can tell when you look at them, that they are not lazy. Rodeo athletes practice and compete just like every other athlete, so why are we not treated as a professional sport?
How can the cowboys become more mainstream?
Tuf Cooper has 42.1 thousand followers on Twitter.
Fallon Taylor has 58.4 thousand followers on Instagram.
Yet, we do not see a verified blue check mark by ANY rodeo athletes name. Most professional athletes have a verified check mark by their name, even if they only have five thousand followers. I believe that most change needs to come from an association, however, their are some things that athletes can do to help spread awareness of our sport. To get verified, make sure your about me on any social media outlet says: OFFICIAL twitter/Instagram/Facebook of: (insert name) and that you have a link to your website. Being professional athletes, you should all be verified by this point. Social media is the necessary evil and it is going to continue to flourish for generations to come. When you are traveling to rodeos, take time to tweet back fans or post in general. I know you are busy, but it takes two seconds to tweet where you are going to be competing at. Trust me, people want to know. However, I know that the change is not going to come from the athletes alone, in fact, they are doing their jobs…So from a business perspective, the company they compete in should be promoting all athletes to the point that someone has to take notice.
Change comes from Within
Rodeo athletes spend several months out of the year traveling to rodeos, hoping to get a paycheck, so that they can pay for their diesel or plane tickets. In essence, the athletes do not make enough money. Winning the National Finals Rodeo, should be a life changing experience. When you win the SuperBowl, World Series or NBA Finals, you pick up new sponsors, your salary increases and your life changes. When you win the National Finals Rodeo, you go home and get $1000 fines in the mail. Do you see where I am going with this? From someone on the outside looking in, you almost want to believe that the association is not looking out for the cowboy, but rather their own bank account. I know, you are probably shuddering at that comment, but I was just saying what everyone else is already thinking. Our cowboys and cowgirls should never have to worry about whether or not they will have money to make it to the next rodeo, they are PROFESSIONAL athletes. I’m sure Kevin Durant doesn’t worry if he will have enough money to fill up his tank because he lost to Miami. Not only is the pay less than acceptable, but the entire marketing aspect of our industry professionals is lacking. Take all the girls gasping at The Longest Ride, they would gasp even more if they saw the guys that were actually competing in rodeo. In case you are wondering what I am talking about:
Holy beautiful, right? These are real rodeo athletes that can easily be marketed on looks alone, not to mention they are all talented. Rodeo has some of the most attractive athletes, and no one cares to use that to help promote the sport. I was looking online at the ESPN Body Issue and this one picture featured:
No, I am not saying sell rodeo on looks alone, but at least the athletes are giving you something to work with. Also, the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB all do an excellent job updating fans about the scores of games or updates on players injuries. When you look at certain websites, it might take you three days to update you about who won. This is unacceptable. If I can tweet every single ride/run of the National Finals Rodeo as the rodeo is taking place, someone should be able to tweet out what Sage Kimzey did at Fort Worth, instantaneously. It is not up to the athletes to go tweet after they get done, a social media team should be able to convey what is happening, as it is taking place. I don’t care if it is a random cowboy that has not made the NFR, we still want to know what he did in the performance. I commend Wrangler Network because they did this in Vegas at the National Finals Rodeo and did not leave anyone out. What this all boils down to, is people and companies should want to be involved with our sport. Notice that Coca Cola or AT&T are not involved with any rodeo athlete? These are major brands that believe in the same qualities of our sport, but are not involved. As a Mass Communications major, I notice every detail. This year, professional team roper, Shay Carroll wore an Under Armour shirt underneath his button down every single night. That means, when they showed him on the big screen for 14k fans and when they showed him on TV for thousands of viewers, they noticed the Under Armour on his shirt and he is not even sponsored by them. Rodeo athletes travel around the world competing in front of millions of fans and they all wear patches representing the brands that they are loyal to. I can’t remember the last time I saw Derek Jeter wear a Nike patch on his uniform before he retired. Better yet, what sport can you watch besides football and hockey, where you might see a son and father compete against each other? Rodeo holds the core values that America was built upon, we are a huge part of American history- lets build on that.
What does Rodeo have to work with?
Did you know that several professional athletes, also compete in rodeo? Did you know that some of the heirs of Disney are involved in rodeo? Did you know that several actors are also team ropers? Basically, every boy wants to grow up to be a cowboy. Our sport is intertwined in my everyday life when I see my sorority sisters wearing cowboy boots or baseball players wearing Cinch. I often use the analogy that Trevor Brazile has more titles to his name than Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James combined, yet has never won or been nominated for an ESPY Award. I think that often, instead of wanting to expand our sport to reach more diverse crowds, we often believe that we are doing enough just by showing up to compete or promoting the sport to the same crowd that has always been fans. We already have the most loyal fans in the industry, but we need to start appealing to the man sitting in his brown stone in New York that happens to stumble upon the ninth round of the NFR. The point I am trying to make, is we need to attract new fans to our sport.
So many athletes are breaking records and no one outside of the industry is able to hear about their accomplishments. From a business stand point, we should be one of the richest and most powerful industries in sports. The only way that is going to happen is if we start pushing these cowboys to be interviewed by Oprah, ring the bell on Wall Street or present an award at the Grammy’s. Rodeo is a huge selling point simply on the fact that it takes the toughest men and women to compete in it, they might break 5 bones at a time, but you better believe that they will make it back in time for Cowboy Christmas.
I love this sport and the people involved with the industry, however, I hate to see that we have not progressed much in the past twenty years. People often ask me, why rodeo? I was raised in this sport and the athletes are my family, I want to see rodeo advance to the next level. I want to break the stereotypes and see a World Champion go home with a million plus in his pocket after competing for ten rounds. I want to see Caleb Bennett, JR Vezain and Chandler Bownds doing commercials for Bed Head hair products, along with other rodeo athletes endorsing major brands. Rodeo is just like every other sport, we just have to decide if we are ready to see the athletes become millionaires.
As fans, we are so blessed to have to opportunity to get a retweet from Shane Hanchey or Marty Yates. Not to mention, we are able to meet our idols, no other sport has the access and opportunities that we do. The only difference is, our sport is not making the money to become mainstream. It was once said, “Money and success does not change people, it merely amplifies what was already there.” Lets help our sport by taking every opportunity to talk about it to someone that has only seen rodeo on Friday Night Lights. I can sit here and talk about getting the cowboys/cowgirls more money all night long, but it is going to have to come from within. Ideas like the American and the new ERA association are providing more opportunities for our athletes, which is what they deserve after all they invest in our sport.
This will be a several part blog, but that is just my opinion of what needs to change asap. You don’t have to agree with it, but I do ask that you respect it. Everything I said is facts and I know that not one person is to blame because this is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed and hopefully changed in the future.