What’s one of the fastest growing indoor sports in North America — one that requires a unique machine to smooth out the arena’s playing surface during a break in the action?
Thinking hockey? Thinking Zamboni? Think again.
The sport is bull riding, and what better equipment is there to push dirt at intermission than a state-of-the-art Caterpillar machine, particularly the 246 skid steer loader?
That’s what Caterpillar Building Construction Products Division Marketing Representative Jason Becker thought in 2002 as he sat through his first Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event, courtesy of fellow Cat employees Brad Van De Veer and Marty Dains.
Becker said, “All during the event there was a machine parked outside the ring, and during intermission it came in to rake the dirt — much like a Zamboni cleans up the ice during a hockey game. Since nothing else was going on at the time, the people in their seats ended up watching the machine. The rest of the time it was parked just outside the ring where everyone could see it.”
Becker considered the potential coverage and name-brand recognition the machine’s manufacturer was receiving for 10 minutes’ worth of work and wanted to see Caterpillar receive that recognition instead. Caterpillar’s North American Commercial Division, The Cat Rental group, and the skid steer loader business unit gave him permission to investigate the possibility.
“I found out that the PBR organization didn’t have any kind of contract or sponsorship agreement...PBR’s dirt-moving crew just rented different machines in each town where they played an arena,” he said.
So with the help of Cat Rental’s Chris Gustafson, Becker put together a proposal for the PBR to use Cat machines exclusively. In addition to Gustafson’s help, Becker relied upon the Nascar Sponsorship experience of Caterpillar employees Greg Towles and Mike Haase to ensure the success of the program that he had developed.
A Brand That Stands Out
As part of the PBR agreement, Cat dealers provided equipment to all PBR bull-riding events in 2003. Cat and its dealers are looking to continue on as the Official Heavy Equipment Supplier of the PBR for 2004.
The ringside skid steer loader is the most visible of five Cat machines in use. However, the machines that push the majority of the dirt each week are actually a Cat G-Series track type tractor, a Cat G-Series medium-sized wheel loader, a Cat B-Series Telehandler, and a second Cat skid steer loader. The PBR organization uses these four machines to bring dirt into each arena and to assemble the bullring.
Cat commercial manager Jim Glennon added, “The use of Cat equipment during PBR events has been a great way for us to get in touch with customers who may not have known us in the past.”
During intermission at every PBR event, a Cat 246 enters the ring and uses a rake to smooth out the dirt in the arena, which exposes Caterpillar machines to thousands of people every night.
Randy Spraggins owns Special-T-Tracks Inc., the contractor that moves dirt in and out of the arenas at most PBR events. Spraggins said his operator initially was not pleased with needing to learn how to handle a new machine, but now is a big fan of the Caterpillar skid steer.
“Visibility and responsiveness are key issues for us, “ Spraggins said, “ and the Cat is great for that. We love the power and ease of operation of the Cat skid steer loader — after a day on the job, you’re not worn out.”
Besides gaining another happy operator, however, the bigger benefit of the PBR agreement is the sheer number of people who will now see Caterpillar in action. Becker said more than 500,000 people were expected to attend live PBR events in 2003, and since the skid steer in particular spends extensive time in front of the audience each night, he said the potential to gain new customers such as hard-to-reach farmers, ranchers, and small contractors is substantial.
“We believe these events will allow us to show more people that Caterpillar is serious about the skid steer loader business. Plus they get to see our skid steer do what it does best, and that is work,” he said. Now that’s no bull.
(This article was reprinted with the permission of Cat Folks, a Caterpillar newsletter.)