Cause Marketing Lessons From the Rodeo

On July 4, 2012 my family and I attended a small town rodeo and the clown who performed had a great joke with a lesson in it for all cause marketers.

Rodeos in the United States don’t enjoy much TV airtime and so they survive on live events, oftentimes in markets so small that Nielsen and Arbitron wouldn’t recognize them.

Oh, the national championship events in Omaha and Oklahoma City can be seen on high-number cable stations, and occasionally the ‘rodeo game’ as the announcer kept referring to it will sometimes go to a few of the New York City exurbs as a novelty for the city-folks. Still the only way for most people in the densely-populated Eastern Seaboard states to see a rodeo is to travel a good distance.

That’s a pity, too. A well-produced rodeo is a slice of the rural American West in its most piquant form.  If the NFL is steak and potatoes, and NASCAR is BBQ and fried pickles, ProRodeo is a hearty chili with cornbread.

PRC rodeos, even at the level I watched last night, are tightly-formatted and entertaining affairs. There’s Bareback Riding, Steer Wrestling, Team Roping (Heelers and Headers) Saddle Bronc Riding, Tie-Down Roping, Steer Roping and Bull Riding.

(At the left is Cody Teel, from Kountze, Texas, who is currently atop of the money-earning standings for bull riding. He’s astride ‘Due North.’)

And there’s the clown who plays the role of the classic jester, or clever fool, along with an announcer who explains the action and plays straight man to the clown.

Midway through the show the clown starts extolling the charms and beauties of the rodeo queen and her court.

Then he says, setting up the joke: 
“Ladies, I have three words for you that will change your lives forever!”

The announcer bites and says… speaking for everyone… “Oh yeah, what’s that?”

Lower your standards,” says the clown.
The crowd roared.

It’s a great punchline. Fifty more words and it could be the lyrics to a country song from Lady Antebellum! But the lesson for all of us in cause marketing is in the clown’s setup, not his punchline.

If you want to change your cause marketing life forever... and not in a good way... then feel free to lower your standards and shortchange things like transparency and openness. Pick partners that aren’t really interested in a true partnership. Make the promotion hard to understand or to participate in. Don’t give potential supporters a compelling reason to participate and don’t thank them when it’s all said and done. And frontload all the communication into the start of the promotion.

But don’t do any of that unless you’re a cause marketing clown.

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