Sponsor Patch Auction raises $445K | TSLN.com

Sponsor Patch Auction raises $445K

Nearly a half-million dollars was raised Sunday as buyers jostled to bid on

cowboys and cowgirls who will sport their logos during a televised rodeo on March 1.

FORT WORTH, Texas; Feb. 22, 2015 – An innovative auction held Feb. 22 in Fort Worth sold $443,500 worth of ad space on the backs of athletes who will be competing at AT&T Stadium on March 1 in RFD-TV's $2 million televised rodeo, The American presented by Polaris Ranger.

The sponsor patches take the place of contestant "back numbers," which have been pinned to the shirts of cowboys for generations.

Winning bidders, which included the likes of Larry the Cable Guy, will watch the action March 1 from custom-made suites near the 50-yard line of AT&T Stadium during the rodeo, and will be invited on stage for awards ceremonies if their cowboy wins.

"It was beyond our expectations," said RFD-TV Events CEO Randy Bernard, who first brought the lucrative, tournament-style rodeo to AT&T Stadium in 2014. "I was very hesitant on projecting a number, since this was the first time for this event, but I'd have guessed it would raise around $200,000. To see it go to almost $450,000 was incredible. I believe this event has tremendous potential and can be done across the country at major rodeos."

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The cowboys and cowgirls themselves, notoriously underpaid in terms of professional sports, receive 85 percent of the winning bid, and the remaining 15 percent is donated to one of three nonprofits dedicated to keeping Western heritage alive – the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy Western and Heritage Museum.

The highest bid, $50,000, was paid for defending American champion team roper Kaleb Driggers. Paraplegic barrel racing contestant Amberley Snyder, who was invited to compete as a Fans' Choice exemption, watched from her wheelchair as space for her sponsor patch brought bidding to $31,000. She will keep $26,350 of that and plans to put it toward a replacement for her truck, which has logged 270,000 miles.

"What an innovative idea," said Andrea Busby of Busby Quarter Horses, who purchased the patch on Snyder. "RFD-TV thinks outside the box, and that's what it takes to change the sport. If every rodeo picked up on this, I think it could be outstanding."

Tickets for RFD-TV's The American, presented by Polaris Ranger, and the Iron Cowboy VI are on sale at the AT&T Stadium Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations and at americanrodeo.com.

–RFD-TV's the American