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Cowboy Cool, New Marketing and Amusement Midway Providers (AMP) Enables Rodeo Austin to Overcome Rainy Days
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What are the best preventative measures an event can take to compensate for rainy days?

For the 2024 Rodeo Austin, the list featured more inclusive marketing outreach, an upgraded midway due to an innovative merger and a stellar music lineup including Wynonna Judd, Gary Allan, Tracy Byrd, 38 Special and Jake Owen highlighted the 2024 edition of Rodeo Austin.

“We had a good rodeo, things went really, really well,” said Glen Alan Phillips, CEO. “We were up with overall attendance for the fair and the Barbecue (BBQ Austin, a fair-food event preceding opening day), but we did have some weather days.”

Rain negatively impacted about 10 of the 17 days, but attendance reached 473,030, on par with last year – about a 1 percent increase, according to Philips. The event couldn't have concluded on more upbeat note. The Closing day was a record 42,598 visitors. “We had to wait through the previous weather, but we had great weather that Saturday with the Rodeo finals.”



Cowboy Cool

After maneuvering through COVID lockdowns, Rodeo Austin has been a cultural rediscovery. From Netflix Westerns like Yellowstone to Cowboy Carter by Beyoncé' dominating the charts, cowboy culture is having a moment in 2024. “Rodeos across the U.S. been up across the board,” said Philips. “Few things in popular culture from a relative standpoint embody family, fun and Patriotism and all the action is still here. I don't think you can discount Cowboy Cool. Rodeos still have that Americana feel which is popular now like's never been and they're something that all families can go to together We're seeing more families with young kids.”

Rodeo Austin has been actively cultivating families and future rodeo fans in recent years. The marketing tagline – “Growing the New Generation of Texas Kids” – has been a phenomenal theme for three years, emblematic of a renewed emphasis on “focusing on the kids and our nonprofit status and our mission.”

The advertising budget was increased “because we do have to spend more money because the ad placement costs have gone up. The media mix for 2024 was Digital —32 Percent; Radio —  28 percent; TV — 20 percent; Outdoor — 10 percent; Print — 5 percent. “We put more emphasis on digital,” he said. “With digital we can track the ROI and see where it is working best and make adjustments. Our approach with digital is to target the audience and we're constantly reevaluating what works best and placing ads where we get the best ROI.”

Key to the ongoing success of Rodeo Austin in reaching all community segments has been reaching the Hispanic market. “We increased our Spanish language marketing. We're doing a better job in reaching the Latin market, which is a big part of our community.”

On the social media front, Philips emphasized community connection. “Our presence on social media is about fun, promoting the mission of the nonprofit and engagement. We are doing more on social media, but you don't want so much promotion that they tune out. On social media we're looking more at stories of behind the scenes and things that appeal to people.”

Pricing & Cost

He noted one particular promotion was particularly effective – a Two Dollar Tuesday. “Our second Tuesday of the show was a two dollar Tuesday. The first week was Spring Break, but the second Tuesday everyone was back and he hit great weather. It was the promotion, the timing and the weather that drew big crowds.”
The boom in a discount promotion seemed related to a potentially troubling trend Philips noticed. Attendance was steady, people were spending but the rate of spending dipped – “spending was down slightly, by about 1 percent,” he said. “I don't know if that was due inflation. But livestock auctions and the shows were up considerably, so not all spending was affected. It's hard to figure out but in 2022 and 2023 people seemed to have more disposable income.”

Inflation was not limited to price increases in food and beverage and other areas of the event, but the cost of entertainment continues to spike. Philips described booking as “always a challenge, but more so this year. It's not getting any cheaper from a cost standpoint. There's more competition in the area.”

Austin is one of the leading live music destinations in North America, claiming more concert venues than any other city. The competition uptick was coming not from theaters and arenas reopening, but music festivals “are popping back up. Festivals are coming back on line, more than in 2022 and 2023. That's driving up costs for the artists we book.”



Amusement Midway Providers

Philips said midway revenue was “almost flat with last year, the rain impacted the midway the most, we had quite a few rain delays. But we also had some new rides.”

Crabtree Amusements has long held the Rodeo Austin Midway contract, but this was the second year for Amusement Midway Providers (AMP), a “new” carnival company resulting from a three-way merger with Crabtree, Wagner's Carnival and Todd Armstrong Shows. The midway featured 52 rides, with revenue on par with the previous year. “We were maybe down 5 percent, because of the rain,” said Jason Wagner, one of the owners of the new conglomerate. “We didn't get great weather so that probably tamped down our revenue some, but the numbers were close.”



Wagner noted that the community support and regional economy sustained the growth pattern for the Rodeo Austin midway. “The economy is regional and parts of the country are blooming and blossoming and some other regions may not be doing so well. But central Texas is doing well, Austin is a great city that is doing well and people there love their Rodeo.”



The partnership also enabled a slew of new rides, including a Chance Giant Wheel, Chance Carousel, the Air Max, a refurbished Flashback with an 80s theme and a Scooby Doo ride. The inaugural year for the newly formed venture had some growing pains, Wagner admitted, but this year the midway was the event's strongest ever. “We had more time to do more marketing and branding. AMP was more visible, we had more signage, a new front gate, more photo-ops. It's been a process.”
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