What’s in a rodeo? Gauging perceptions and value of the CNFR for Casper

Rooster Yazzie (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — What value does the College National Finals Rodeo bring to the community of Casper?

The answer to this question is important to Visit Casper, since that organization’s mission is to support the local economy by promoting tourism.

That’s why Visit Casper paid Dean Runyan Associates to conduct a visitor profile and economic impact study of the 2018 CNFR.

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Without such a study, Visit Casper CEO Brook Kaufman said it was difficult to gauge the economic value that CNFR brings to Casper, since looking at things like hotel occupancy doesn’t show exactly why people are staying overnight, even if it is during the rodeo.

“We could never speak to it in a meaningful way,” Kaufman said on Friday, June 7.

The study was conducted by asking rodeo attendees to complete a survey, answering questions about things like their expenditures while in Casper and their travel plans and habits.

The study found that the total “direct economic impact” of the CNFR on the local economy was $1.87 million.

For some perspective, Visit Casper says that visitors spent $295 million in Natrona County in 2018. If both of these figures are correct, that means CNFR accounted for about 0.006% of tourism spending in Natrona County in 2018.

But direct impact from tourists spending money is not the only economic impact of the CNFR.

The study found that secondary economic impacts, which include things like travel industry employees spending money, was about $545,000, bringing the total economic impact of the CNFR to an estimated $2.415 million.

While the CNFR generates this activity for the local economy, Kaufman said the rodeo also provides important cultural value to Casper.

“It drives quality of life,” she said. “We all want to live in a place that offers amenities.”

This kind of value is more difficult to measure and communicate, Kaufman said.

It may be easier for people to focus on specific numbers; the number of ticket sales, for example. This year’s CNFR ticket sales are up compared with last year.

But even ticket sales can be deceiving. Focusing on whether events themselves generate a profit through ticket sales can ignore the fact that they bring visitors to Casper who spend money at local businesses and contribute to Casper’s character.

But what is Casper’s character and identity? Are rodeos a crucial piece of the culture here?

That depends on who is asked this question.

Young Strategies, Inc. conducted visitor profile research for Visit Casper in 2018. They collected 4,528 surveys from both visitors and residents.

The following word clouds were generated from the question: “What words come to mind when you think of Casper?”

The first word cloud comes from respondents who said they came to Casper for leisure and stayed overnight:

Visit Casper funded study

This cloud was generated from those visiting Casper for leisure day trips:

Visit Casper funded study

The third word cloud comes from those who came to Casper for business, conferences or meetings:

Visit Casper study

An older 2014 Destination/Community Brand Blueprint also tried to hone in on what various groups perceive as Casper’s character.

The study was conducted to support the City of Casper, Natrona County Commissioners, Casper Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (Visit Casper), Casper Downtown Development Authority, Casper Area Economic Development Authority and Casper Area Chamber of Commerce.

A total of “1,721 people completed the online surveys of which 163 were visitors, 119 potential visitors, 1,356 residents and 83 business and visitor industry stakeholders.”

One interesting aspect of this study is that visitors, residents and travel industry stakeholders appear to hold different perceptions of Casper.

When these groups were asked what things they think of when describing Casper, the following table shows the most frequently mentioned features:

2014 Destination/Community Brand Blueprint

While rodeos are not explicitly noted in these answers, it may be worthwhile to note the differences between the groups on the item “Western culture/heritage/history.”

Potential visitors and travel industry stakeholders are the most likely to think of Casper in these terms. People who’ve visited Casper are less likely to hold such perceptions, and Casper residents were the least likely.

This pattern continues when looking at emotional descriptors the different groups used to describe Casper:

2014 Destination/Community Brand Blueprint

However, it is probably also important to keep in mind that the way a question is asked will elicit different responses. The CNFR was high on the list of “key unique/distinctive attractions of Casper”:

2014 Destination/Community Brand Blueprint

This table too reveals a gap between what residents and travel industry stakeholders think about the community.

Determining both the economic and cultural value of the CNFR may be important as Casper inches toward the end of its contract to host the rodeo.

That contract expires in 2022.