Behind the Scenes

Once again, Las Vegas is the place to be for fans of the Western lifestyle in early December.

Not only is the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in town at the Thomas & Mack Center, but the YETI Junior World Finals returns to the Wrangler Rodeo Arena inside the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Las Vegas Events-run JWF features some of the top young cowboys and cowgirls in the country, as well as contestants from Canada, Mexico and Australia. 

“The Junior World Finals is an established event in that it now awards $1 million in cash and prizes,” said Junior World Finals Assistant General Manager Brilynn Bentley, who is responsible for LVE’s corporate marketing sponsorships. “And it’s recognized as the biggest and best rodeo for the youth in our industry.”

Cash Robb, Sage Schrunk, Garrett Curry during the Fifth Performance of Steer Wrestling at the Junior World Finals in Las Vegas, NV. Photo By: Bull Stock Media

With 800 contestants scheduled to compete during the 10-day event – the roughstock events will be held Dec. 1-5, followed by the timed events Dec. 6-10 – sponsors have aligned with LVE to connect with those kids and their families.

“We have some new and exciting sponsors, like Baja Vida Jerky and Tin Haul Boots, which kind of validates what we’re doing here in Vegas,” said LVE Corporate Marketing Specialist Stetson Stallworth. “We have (sponsors) looking to get into the Western lifestyle who maybe don’t know where to start but they have those core values of family and integrity and those things that align with our industry.”

Adding to that excitement has been the growing relationship between the Junior World Finals and the Wrangler NFR on a marketing level.

“One would think that the natural progression would be you get into the Western industry by becoming a sponsor of the Junior World Finals and then you become a sponsor of the NFR,” Stallworth said. “While that is certainly happening, we’re also seeing the opposite. Folks over at the Thomas & Mack are now looking over at the Convention Center and wondering what’s going on at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena and what’s going on with those 850 contestants and that $1 million in payout.

“It’s been exciting to see how involved our NFR partners want to become on the Junior World Finals side,” he added. “The beauty of our organization is that we aren’t here to make money, we’re here to improve the NFR Experience for the contestants, for our corporate partners and of course for the fans.” Stallworth said this year’s JWF has 23 corporate sponsors in addition to two partner hotels – Sam’s Town and Tuscany Suites & Casino Las Vegas. Sam’s Town is the official host property for the Junior World Finals timed events competitors and their families while the Tuscany is the official host property for the JWF roughstock events competitors and their families.

“This event is now expanding across Las Vegas so much that we need two properties in order to house the contestants, horses and their families,” Bentley noted.

Both hotels will host back number ceremonies in partnership with Cavender’s – Nov. 30 at the Tuscany for the roughstock competitors and Dec. 5 at Sam’s Town for the timed event competitors – where contestants will receive their official JWF Resistol jacket and Hooey Contestant ball cap. Sam’s Town also will serve as the official site for the Junior World Finals live viewing party. “The official JWF satellite party will take place at a venue called Sam’s Town Live,” Bentley said of the area that will seat about 1,000 people who can watch a live feed of that night’s Wrangler NFR. “This viewing party will actually be dedicated for the Junior World Finals contestants, but it is open to the public. It’s more of a family friendly viewing party because our contestants can’t go to all of the NFR viewing parties.

“Our goal behind this is creating a family friendly space for the Junior World Finals contestants and their families and friends,” she added. “We want to give families a place to gather in a communal area as if they are at another rodeo.”

For rodeo fans and family members who can’t make it to Vegas for the JWF, the Cowboy Channel is once again making the rodeo available for free to its Cowboy Channel Plus app subscribers. According to Bentley, last year around 11,000 people clicked on the app to check in on the rodeo each day. Once there, viewers spent nearly two hours on the app, meaning they not only watched a certain contestant but that contestant’s entire event. That type, and length, of engagement is what stands out to sponsors. 

JW Nunn, SMB, Fletcher, during the Fifth round of Bull Riding at the Junior World Finals in Las Vegas, NV. Photo By: Bull Stock Media

“This has become appealing for sponsors because now they have the opportunity to get front of the fans no matter where they are,” Bentley said. “And that’s where we continue to see growth not just in Vegas but across the industry.”

LVE now has the ability to provide sponsors with those additional stats in order to show digital value within partnerships.  

“We can tell them their commercial will be played once every hour,” Bentley said, “which means the odds are that within those 11,000 viewers daily you’re going to have a visible commercial minimum once a day in arena plus on the app because of the rollover.
“With the growth of the event itself, within the contestants, within the industry, you also have the ability to provide those people and sponsors that are a part of the Junior World Finals with those stats they are then more willing to be involved. They can grow with us.”

The growth of the YETI Junior World Finals is apparent. From the number of hotel partners to the payout in cash and prizes to the value to sponsors, the JWF continues to be a leading light in the Western industry for youth rodeo. And Las Vegas Events expects the JWF to keep improving for all parties involved. 


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