New Programming, Marketing & Extended Hours Help San Antonio Survive Rain & Cold Spell
Wade Shows midway revenue suffers from adverse weather
Weather woes may have plagued the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo but a combination of new promotions and attractions led to an ultimately successful run. Cold temperatures, rain and even snow flurries threatened the event and certainly squelched attendance on several days of this 18-day event, but when all was said and done some instrumental changes enabled the celebration of Texas cowboy culture to prevail.
“We had some weather challenges,” said Lauren N. Sides, spokesman, San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. “We had some really nice days too.”
Final attendance figures were not available but Sides said that attendance hovered around the 2 million average that is typical for the rodeo. She also said that 10 of the concerts/rodeos beat attendance records for those exact days. Of course it helps when you can attract some of the biggest country music superstars in the business. The concert lineup for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo included: 38 Special; Martina McBride; Trace Adkins; Darius Rucker; Alabama; Brad Paisley; Eli Young Band; Cole Swindell; Lady Antebellum; Sammy Hagar & The Circle; and Brett Eldredge.
“We had a very good lineup and were able to select a variety of people that drew in audiences,” said Sides. “In terms of talent buying, it was about the same as last year whether or not it was more of a buyers or sellers market.”
Rodeo has a built-in audience, especially in San Antonio, and this annual event held at the AT&T Center is one of the premier stops on the PRCA circuit. But this rodeo is also known for attracting both the aficionado and neophyte and this year event organizers made strides towards broadening the fan-base of the sport. The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo brought the rodeo into the digital entertainment age with “Guess The Score,” an interactive app and website where audiences could become part of the action by predicting how the judges would score each competitor.
“We had a lot of success with the app,” said Sides. “We had 6,000 people playing the game the first night. We are the first in the industry to have this app, the main thing was that it is interactive, and introduced the world of rodeo to people. You could also win prizes and it really helps engage younger folks so they can learn about the sport.”
New enhancements to the annual San Antonio event did not end inside the fabled rodeo arena. The event added several new attractions that had “high-energy appeal”: Xtreme Dog Show, the Off-Axis Stunt Show and the Trick-Line Collective. “We rotated these three different shows,” said Sides.
In addition, Sides said that they added additional animal attraction, mainly due to a new collaboration with the San Antonio Zoo. “They reached out to us, and we switched out animals in our Texas Wild Life Expo,” said Sides. “We also had Scales-N-Teeth, an exhibit of reptiles and alligators, which was really good, and our Wilde Things Zoo Safari. We wanted exhibits that were educational and fun for the family.”
Rodeo After Dark
The most successful promotion and programming change was the introduction of Rodeo After Dark. There's no avoiding the fact that the rodeo is the main attraction of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, but according to Sides, after the rodeo lets out – around 9:00pm – the fair portion generally closed. This year they introduced Rodeo After Dark, which extended hours to midnight, expanding the night with free music on multiple stages and an expanded Food Court and other venues, such as the Frontier Club, Champion Wine Garden and the Craft Beer Tap Room. “We had a leadership change in June and there's a new vision to create a music festival feel that was Rodeo After Dark,” said Sides.
“Their marketing team tried a few different things,” said Frank Zaitshik, owner of Wade Shows. He admits to being somewhat reluctant – for example, Friday was usually a dollar day but the Rodeo After Dark eliminated that price promotion. “But we still have a $2 Tuesday and everything worked out fine. We moved ahead with the same amount of enthusiasm.”
Weather negatively impacted the midway revenue but it turned out that this year was an improvement over last year. “It was a rough start, one of the most challenging starts due to weather,” said Zaitshik. “But we had a good finish. Our best numbers were in 2016, 2017 there was a drop off, due to weather and 2018 was a big drop, due to weather. 2019 was dropping off and was even with 2018 but we finished better than 2018 and were closer to be on track with 2017.”
Zaitshik described the midway as a mix of traditional rides, including a variety of swing rides, a Chance Giant Wheel,Super Cyclone Roller Coaster and Drag Strip Mega Slide. “We are proud of our presentation of rides and the impression we made. We opened up the gate, removing some of the clutter and improved landscaping. It was a subtle difference, but it made the entrance wider and welcoming and made a good impression. We are glad to be the carnival part of the rodeo, where we are just one component.”
The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo uses a perennial tagline – “More THAN a 8 Second Ride” – and the graphics reinforce a rustic type of feel that relates to wood grain,” said Sides. This year, the event used more color in other aspects of the graphic design. “We brightened up the colors with red, purple and oranges and used white fonts. We had a great look and did a great job ensuring that the design and fonts attracted people of all ages. Our entire graphic look incorporates the new colors on our TV spots and social media.”
While the organization doesn't disclose its advertising budge, it was about the same as last year, with a big switch in terms of shifting spending towards digital advertising. “We increased digital, and greatly reduced print adverting. We did more TV advertising and all the OTT stuff so we are on the streaming services. It went very well.”
She added, “we saw significant increases in Instagram and Facebook likes. Our Facebook likes went up 30 percent.”
The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo featured more than 20 different venues. One new cuisine addition was a Food Challenge, an opening day contest with local celebrity judges where different foods vied for the Dinner Bell Award.
The new food item that got the most attention was a tater tot vendor that served the beloved potato product “loaded with a Tex-Mex Flair, with guacamole and jalapenos.
Sides credited a change in leadership for implementing the new vision for San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, these changes included a hot entertainment lineup, tweaking the marketing design, adding new attractions and offering extended weekend hours with Rodeo After Dark. In June, Cody Davenport moved from President and became Executive Director & CEO of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo and Keith Martin moved to a new role as Executive Director & CEO of the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Educational Foundation. “I am truly honored to serve in this capacity and look forward to driving the advancement of our mission,” said Davenport. “My focus will be on continuing the momentum we have today and create new ways to build upon that.”