Those acquaintances on the professional circuit, from as far away as New Mexico, have bought Ram pickups from Elder. His dad, Hayden, said that type of loyalty isn't unusual among riders and their families.
Hegbloom said he noticed that loyalty the first time he attended the national finals of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in Las Vegas three years ago. That competition brings together the top money winners on the circuit for 10 days of riding and music that fills a 17,500-seat arena every night and turns the Vegas strip into a sea of cowboy hats and western garb each December.
Ram is the vehicle sponsor, while Wrangler, the jeans brand, is the title sponsor.
Hegbloom said that when he pulled into his hotel parking lot it was filled with pickups, and most of them were Rams.
He said that's consistent with what he has seen at other Ram-sponsored rodeos: attendees drive Rams in far greater proportion than the brand's national market share.
Ram's connection to the rodeo goes back to 1981, making it one of the longest-running grass-roots marketing campaigns in automotive history.
The Ram Rodeo sponsorship program was started by Jack Lowry, a Pennsylvania Ram dealer who saw an opportunity to promote Ram pickups at rodeos based on research showing that more than half of all rodeo attendees drove trucks.
That first year, Lowry's Ram Rodeo sponsored 18 rodeos, working as a vendor to Chrysler, said Mike Orman, owner and president of 100X Marketing Group, the company that now manages the sponsorships for Ram.
While the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has some national sponsors, rodeo has no single sanctioning body to oversee national sponsorships of the competitions themselves, unlike NASCAR. The vast majority of events are hosted by local chambers of commerce or volunteer organizing committees that must reach out to sponsors individually for support.
Orman said it's a credit to Ram's image among these grass-roots rodeo organizers that the brand gets invited back each year by virtually all of the independent rodeos.
Through Ram's partnership with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, organizers of Ram-sponsored events also gain access to the sport's elite cowboys.