Power of a brand

Build Your Brand 101
That the rope horse market is booming is a secret to no one, so what’s the secret sauce behind the training & breeding programs that rise above the rest? Marketing.
THE NOTORIOUS BIG, OWNED BY SOUTHERN RANCHES.
The Notorious Big, owned by Southern Ranches. | Courtesy Elizabeth Clymer

In a world where social media makes an immense impact on marketing strategies, equine promotion specialists have upped their game to make team ropers and rope-horse trainers noticeable. With the exponential growth of the rope horse market, high demand for skilled marketing techniques to reach audiences on all social media platforms has increased in spades, too. As a result, rope horse trainers have had to get savvy with their marketing techniques to stand out from the crowd online. Some have hired content creators to develop thoughtful, engaging and innovative products marketing their clients’ horses. Those marketing agencies ensure visibility on social media platforms, using their talents in photography, videography, website design and media management to revolutionize the way rope horses are perceived. 

The rise of marketing services

Equine marketing and promotional businesses have become more prevalent within the last decade. Elizabeth Clymer with EC Equine Marketing (ecequinemarketing.com) can attest to that. 

“As the evolution of all equine industries has grown, the team roping industry has also evolved on a large scale,” Clymer said. “Before social media in the rope horse industry, trainers and owners relied more on accolades and reputation, which is still very important, but now we can showcase the wins and the effort that it takes at home on a much larger scale to reach millions of people,”

With bigger, better, faster horses, there’s more money on the line, more incentives and more chances to highlight the quality of horses in the sport. In short, rope horses are becoming more marketable.

“Before, owners had to attend the events to see the action,” Clymer said. “Now, we have livestreams and immediate results that allow owners to enjoy the process even if they have sent their horse to a trainer across the country.”

Similarly, proximity no longer dictates availability. Rope horses are now marketed all over the country—not just to those who attend the local sale. Through live videos, content creation, sale videos and other marketing techniques, information and demand spreads quickly.

Bet Hesa Ginnin, owned by Jason Richey’s Premier Rope Horses.

Services for success

Elite Equine Promotions (eliteequinepromotions.com) is also a marketing agency that offers photography and videography of sale horses and stallions, website development, management of social media and event coverage. 

“Part of the services I offer is making a detailed marketing plan that is tailored to the customer,” stated EEP’s Kenzie Mayer, who has shot for Kaleb Driggers, the Relentless Remuda and Solo Select and photographed Clay Smith for this magazine’s  current cover image.

To develop a custom plan, an analysis of the business and its goals is conducted to produce a unique and authentic voice for the client. 

“I want the audience to become a fan of that stud or that trainer or whatever it is,” Clymer said. “That’s when I feel people become interested for the right reasons.” 

Importantly, such agencies go beyond “feel.” Without minimizing the value of nailing the right tone, marketing in today’s online space requires a deep understanding of analytics and an uncanny ability to pivot tactics in an ever-shifting space. Both Clymer and Mayer have developed a deep understanding of social media and team ropers—a rare combination for your everyday social media manager.

“I’ve studied algorithms and targeting certain audiences,” Mayer said. “That’s a big part of it. When I have a client, I have to think of what their goal is and what I need to do to achieve that goal. If they want to get more likes to their Facebook page or if they want to get more people to breed to their horse, if they want to get more people to their event, I have to target a certain audience.”

Guys Genuine, owned by S Heart Ranch, is in training with Tate Kirchenschlager.

Social media’s impact

Social media avenues like Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok have flat-out changed the nature of advertising. Used well, they are an imperative tool to market and highlight trainers and horses alike.

For NFR header, American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Champion and proven horse trainer Tate Kirchenschlager, employing equine marketing services led to more of his horses being seen by the public and created a variety of buyers for horses. 

“Everything now is driven off social media,” Kirchenschlager said. “What the public sees on social media is what they believe. So it helps to have a good marketer to keep your name consistently in front of the public, showing what you’re doing day in and day out. Plus, we couldn’t do what we do without sponsors, so they appreciate the coverage, too.”

Afer winning the ARHFA World Championships in 2021, Kirchenschlager and his wife, Terra, made the decision to hire a marketing and promotional manager to create content and manage social media. Since then, he’s seen his program transform in several ways.

“People who own the horses love seeing their horses up there. They like to show their friends and let people see what they’re doing. They can’t always go to all the shows, so having someone hired to post their horses consistently is a great way to keep them connected. Basically, it’s all just more professional and that’s the goal.” 

The marketing bar has been set in the team roping industry. Increased quality of photography and videography plays a massive role in the developing market demands. 

“Not only are people raising better horses and making horses look better,” Kirchenschlager said, “but when you have Elizabeth with her exceptional abilities and drive, she just brings everything to a higher scale.”

In the same vein, Clymer conveyed the importance of hiring a professional who understands the fundamentals of the industry and the ability to decipher what is “post-worthy” and what is not.

Kirchenschlager aboard the davison family’s help horse, lucky, at the 2023 fort worth stock show & Rodeo’s AQHA show. Courtesy EC Equine MaRketing

The benefits

When Kirchenschlager hired his marketing manager, not only did he develop a larger and more engaged audience, but he also experienced growth in the relationships he shares with his sponsors. The net effect has been a game changer. 

“I will definitely say I have gained customers from it, as far as customers in the horse training business,” Kirchenschlager said. 

He added that his customers and sponsors have personally thanked him for what his content creator does. For Kirchenschlager, hiring a marketing manager has proven just as important and beneficial to his business as him training the horses. 

By looking at the numbers, Clymer can also vouch for the validity of marketing services in the equine space.

“We have seen exponential numbers among trainers and stallion owners in the rope horse industry who have benefited from social media marketing,” she said. 

Team ropers who employ marketing services are building their brand by relying on equine marketing professionals to expand and diversify the market.  

“I focus on growing businesses,” Mayer said succinctly.

Market what you’re made of

If the ultimate goal may is to sell the horse, the sale-ready horse isn’t the only marketing tool available. Consider the countless hours in the practice pen, the dedication to preparing the horse to be showcased, the heritage, lineage and horsemanship that is a direct reflection of the work that happens in the name of the business. 

Social media can communicate all of it, and without physical limits.

“I have trainers that have gotten clients in Brazil and Mexico and they’re never going to step foot on their place, but they believe in their trainer because they believe what they see online,” Clymer said. 

Through social media, promotional agencies can display their client’s personality, enthusiasm and commitment, so it’s equally important to ensure the social media matches what a customer sees in person. Clients appreciate seeing transparency online and in the barn because it helps them find a trainer or horse that aligns with what they’re searching for.

Join Tate Kirchenschlager in the practice pen on Roping.com. Courtesy EC Equine Marketing

Investing makes a difference

As Mayer says, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to advertising performance horses and the impacts it will have on profits. Higher sale prices, better sale percentages, more breeding spots filled and increased attention are all potential markers of a successful campaign. 

“For a lot of my clients, the biggest thing for them is increasing their sale successes, meaning their horse actually gets sold, whether it’s at auction or private, and getting more for their horse due to a higher quality of content,” Mayer said. 

Taking images of a high caliber horse with an outdated smartphone doesn’t do the trick anymore. It’s an injustice to what’s been invested, and it applies across the board—to training programs and breeding programs alike. 

“Some stallions book full before breeding season even starts, just because we’ve been advertising basically year-round and at events,” Mayer explained. “That’s huge. That sets people ahead.”

The time it takes to produce quality content can be extensive and should not be overlooked: the consumers reached through regular, continuous posting can transform a business.

“Daily engagement is important,” Clymer offered. “Even if you’re not getting hundreds or thousands of views, people are becoming familiar with you.” 

Social media is a highlight reel

A final but important detail is finding the balance between creating something popular and designing something authentic. 

“It’s important to honestly portray what’s there,” Clymer said. 

To maintain a strong campaign, she says, it is critical to be good to people and use social media to highlight a program’s values and horsemanship. 

“Social media is so big now that you can’t really survive without it,” she said.

5 Must-Do’s on Facebook

• Set up a professional Facebook page with complete information and compelling visuals.

• Post engaging content regularly, showcasing your rope horses’ skills and sharing industry insights.

• Join and actively participate in relevant Facebook Groups to establish yourself as an authority.

• Utilize Facebook Ads to reach a targeted audience and highlight your program’s value.

• Encourage reviews and testimonials from satisfied clients to build trust and attract potential buyers.

5 Must-Do’s on TikTok

• Create captivating short videos featuring your rope horses and training sessions.

• Follow and participate in popular equine trends to tap into a wider audience.

• Use relevant hashtags to increase discoverability and engage in hashtag challenges.

• Showcase personality and behind-the-scenes moments to create a strong connection with viewers.

• Engage with the TikTok community through comments, collaborations and consistent posting.

BONUS TIP: TikTok hates horizontal videos. While it might not be natural in team roping, turn your camera vertically to film, or use editing software like Adobe Rush to cut the video vertically. 

5 Must-Do’s for Instagram

• Create an appealing Instagram profile with a clear bio and high-quality visuals, with contact information included in your bio.

• Share engaging content, such as photos and videos, showcasing your rope horses’ talents and training—including the use of Reels as your primary driver.

• Use relevant hashtags to increase discoverability and reach a wider equine community.

• Engage with followers by responding to comments, liking their posts and fostering meaningful connections.

• Collaborate with influencers or industry partners to expand your reach and attract a larger audience, including product mentions when possible to reach out to those whose products you use and believe in within your horse program. 

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