Sporting events are a great way to get a company’s name out to the masses.

Some poultry companies have figured that out. For instance, Foster Farms has increased its brand awareness among college football fans through being the title sponsor of the Foster Farms Bowl. Sanderson Farms has done the same with golf fans by presenting the Sanderson Farms Championship.

With my favorite annual sporting event approaching, I've been thinking about how it seems there are avenues for sporting sponsorships that could elevate awareness that are not really being taken by the poultry industry. What if, for example, Sanderson Farms also became a sponsor of professional rodeo bull rider Caleb Sanderson?

While there are countless sports where a company can market itself, I’ll focus mainly on the one I follow the most closely at the professional level: rodeo.

Starting December 7, I will be tuning into telecasts and webcasts of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), which is the premiere competition of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). For 10 consecutive days, the top 15 cowboys and cowgirls in the sports in each rodeo event will vie for world championships in front of a sold-out crowd at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Thomas and Mack Center. Millions of people will also watch from their television sets, computers and other electronic devices.

So to me, rodeo sponsorships make sense as a marketing opportunity. While Wrangler already has dibs as one title sponsor, and Ram is the title sponsor of the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, there are other avenues. One is by sponsoring individual athletes.

PRCA patch program

Unlike most athletes in professional team sports, rodeo athletes are not guaranteed a salary, and they are responsible for paying for their entry fees, travel expenses, equipment, and feed and veterinary expenses for their horses.

If a cowboy or cowgirl falls into a slump, there can be some pretty lean weeks.

But the PRCA has established what it calls the Patch Program, which gives companies the opportunity to publicize themselves via a top rodeo athlete. The program allows businesses to sponsor athletes individually, and the sponsors help the contestants with expenses per an agreement reached between the two parties and approved by the PRCA.

True to the name, sponsored contestants typically wear a patch carrying their sponsors’ names on their shirts, vests or chaps.

With roughly 600 PRCA sanctioned rodeos in North America, there are plenty of opportunities for a company’s logo to be seen. But no venue offers more visibility than the WNFR. The camera crews always seem to zoom in to where those logos are noticeable. Round winners are interviewed after their ride, where the patches are clearly shown, and often, the winners spend more time thanking their sponsors by name than they do talking about their winning performance.

As an eight-time world champion team roper, Rich Skelton is one of the most decorated cowboys in professional rodeo. He has also become one of the sport's most decorated cowboys in terms sponsor patches on his shirts. | Photo courtesy of the PRCA

Rodeo and brand loyalty

It would be easy to be skeptical and think that rodeo and poultry don’t have a lot in common. I don’t see it that way. You won’t see too many vegans attending or tuning into a rodeo like you may with other sports. It may be true that the cowboy crowd is a little more into eating beef, but if poultry companies show support for the sport, rodeo contestants and fans are likely to reciprocate.

I’ve been around the sport long enough to know that the rodeo crowd is brand loyal. I can almost guarantee that at the next rodeo you attend, you will probably see more people wearing Wrangler jeans than any other brand, and you’ll likely see more Ram trucks in the parking lot than any other make or model.