It was the end of August, and the hot summer sun was finally sinking below the branches of nearby oak trees in small-town Caldwell, Idaho. While I waited in line to enter the Caldwell Night Rodeo, I examined my flashy pink entry ticket in avoidant boredom. Casually glancing around the crowd I saw other patrons doing the same. The front of the ticket had been meticulously designed for visual appeal and a scrap-booking feel, but the back of our tickets were completely blank. What a lost marketing opportunity!
The Caldwell Night Rodeo has been around for 81 years, and in recent years it has drawn more than 40,000 people in a single weeklong run. It has been a staple of the Idaho rodeo community for decades and is even listed among the top 20 professional rodeos in the nation. Hundreds of local vendors anxiously vie for their spot as a sponsor, and media coverage leading up to the event is unprecedented.
Yet no one thought to stamp their name and company information on the back of the one thing that every single fair attendee must have: a ticket.
This rodeo is only one example of the marketing opportunities that can be found at crowded events. Local fairs and rodeos are one of the most popular hallmarks of summer fun. They represent the whimsical carefree evenings of youth, with delicious junk food, questionable roller coasters, and more lights than Christmas in the suburbs. These fairs draw millions of visitors to venues all over the country, and if there is one thing that they all have in common it’s the wait times.
Waiting to buy tickets, waiting to go on a ride, waiting between live entertainment acts — wherever there are hoards of people there will be time spent in a line.
As I learned this summer, this inconvenience for fairgoers is a major marketing opportunity for businesses. What do people do when they wait? They try to find something to distract themselves. Our attention spans are famously short, so we often look for anything to avoid boredom. This is a huge opportunity for brands that can capitalize on empty spaces (like tickets) by offering a much-needed relief from temporary boredom.
The Big Flop
The more I pondered the numbers and potential influence, the more ludicrous this marketing flop seemed.
This advertising accident may have simply been overlooked except for the fact that it was everywhere! The ride tickets, blank. Posters of the event, black-backed. Even though Jose Cuervo was a headline sponsor of the rodeo, even the drink tickets were blank.
The New York Post found that the top 10 fairs alone draw more than 12 million visitors a year, and the Houston rodeo set a new attendance record of 75,357 fans in March of 2015. Clearly, people are visiting these events in search of entertainment, and yet the advertising is surprisingly lacking beyond the stalls of vendors.
So how can you do it better?
Get creative and do not waste an opportunity to get your name out there.
Start today by looking for marketing opportunities that other businesses have overlooked. Think of year-round events where hoards of people will gather for a good time, and don’t be afraid to get creative!
Summer is popular for outdoor events, concerts, etc. Fall is sports season, and millions of people gather to play, tailgate, and watch their team. Winter is perfect for targeting customers at home (when they will have more time to read pieces of direct mail). Spring is the season of renewal and many consumers look to fill the hole that winter left in their life.
Whether it be coupons, stickers, t-shirts, tickets, or posters, you should be trying anything you can to get people to associate your name with something exciting. This positive association instantly links your brand to the endorphin center of the brain.
The possibilities for these unconventional marketing strategies are as infinite and timeless as the products to be sold. In the case of the rodeo, there were many opportunities for advertising that would contribute to the fair-feel while subtly promoting brands and products. Some examples are:
- Rodeo tickets
- Carnival games
- Restroom stalls
- Information kiosks
- Parking shuttles
- Parking passes
Your brand can capitalize on any event that draws a crowd, for a captive (and motivated) audience. Think local 5ks, charitable organizations, etc. If one of your clients is getting married, you could even offer to sponsor their wedding. Too far? Maybe — but it worked for a local baseball team, and actually encouraged a lot of fans to get involved with the planning. But you get the point, the possibilities are truly endless.
The best part about this kind of targeted advertising is that you can use mutually beneficial advertising strategies to partner with other noncompeting companies with a similar demographic, or even those who directly contribute to a problem you can fix.
What if a dental office had thought to give toothbrushes away near the cotton-candy stand? Perfect plug for oral hygiene, and those customers may actually be more prone to cavities.
D&B Got it Right
One example of a brand that executed this in perfect fashion is D&B Supply. This country-supply brand is famous for being the go-to place for farmers, ranchers, and horse enthusiasts in Idaho and Oregon. While they already have a strong local customer base, they still spend exorbitant amounts of money to market at local rodeos and country fairs. Why?
Because these events bring competitors and spectators from all over the country. When those people don’t have the luxury of their favorite supply store back home, they go to the store name they recognize.
D&B succeeds because they put their marketing dollars to work. They identify a target audience and work hard to make a positive association with their brand. Competitors relax in the D&B lounge, and visitors are treated to D&B discounts when they show rodeo tickets in stores.
This powerful marketing tool is not limited to perfect matches like D&B at rodeos. Virtually any company can benefit from the exposure that creative advertising provides, with relatively small investment of time and capital.
“The world does not lack for different opportunities.”
But I have found that opportunities come to those who look for them. One surefire way to broaden your marketing horizon is to examine your life as a consumer and start looking for missed marketing opportunities.
With your target demographic in mind, think of creative ways to connect your brand to the things they enjoy most in life, and you’re halfway to making the sale.