Looking for strategies to promote your breeding stallion? These experts share tips for all budgets.

Marketing a barrel stallion today looks very different than successful strategies from even just a few years ago. Whether you’ve got an unlimited budget or are working on a shoestring, promoting your stallion is crucial to ensuring his success as a stud. These three stallion owners share what is working for them, with tips on how to build your own marketing strategy.

Proving Your Stallion

Cierra Chapman Nelson and her father, David Chapman, stand 2004 stallion Sun Frosted Rocket (Sun Frost x Call Me Wrangler x Rocket Wrangler). They chose to focus on proving the stallion’s merit before focusing on marketing. Nelson did this through the stallion’s own barrel racing successes first. “Sunny” has earned more than $80,000 and has won in pro rodeo and American Quarter Horse Association events.

Frenchmans Fabulous. Photo by Kailey Sullins

“If you go to a jackpot and win it by three tenths, everybody is going to want to know the horse that you’re on,” Nelson said.

Nelson and Chapman started by breeding their own mares to Sunny, then letting his offspring’s competition records hype the stallion organically.

“We bred two or three colts a year, for probably 10 years, and that’s all the colts we had,” Nelson said. “I realized I wanted to see more people win with his offspring than just me, so that’s when I stood him to the public at a breeding facility.”

Kenny Nichols and Dale Barron stand the 1998 palomino stallion Frenchmans Fabulous (Frenchmans Guy x Caseys Charm x Tiny Circus), sire of rodeo and futurity winners such as $1 million earner and National Finals Rodeo mare KN Fabs Gift Of Fame (‘J Lo’).

Barron says to pay attention to the stats on your stallion—do you have any magic crosses? Any particularly successful pairings?

“Look at those EquiStat reports, study those crosses,” Barron said. “That research helps you in developing a message of promotion.”

Small Budget? Get Creative.

Lisa Miladinovich acquired 2008 palomino stallion Aint Seen Nothin Yet (Frenchmans Guy x Smart N Famous x Dash Ta Fame) when she was a broke college student, but despite having no money to advertise her stallion early on, she found creative ways to get the word out.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to advertise in magazines, I just couldn’t afford to,” Miladinovich said. “My big take-home here is that social media has changed so much advertising. I used social media to my advantage, because that’s what I had to do. When you believe in your product, you have to promote him and get the mares to him in any way, shape or form that you can. I had to think outside the box of how I was going to promote a stallion with no budget.”

Nelson prefers using a professional photographer for ad photos but incorporates casual photos in social media posts. Courtesy Cierra Nelson

With a few strategic magazine ads, Miladinovich has put all her energy into social media campaigns—Facebook contests, reaching out to potential clients, targeted ads and encouraging engagement in comments.

Miladinovich says don’t neglect potential clients who aren’t on social media.

“I have an external website in addition to a Facebook page,” Miladinovich said. “A lot of people have dropped their website and just gone to purely Facebook. But I’ve found out over the years there are still a lot of people who do not do social media. I think the website is just as important as having Facebook or Instagram pages.”

Nelson mainly markets their stallion on Facebook and Instagram, posting content to the page and targeting ads to potential clients. “About 80 percent of the business I get comes from social media platforms,” Nelson said.

Allocating a set amount of money each month, Nelson will choose their marketing methods, planning her strategy.

“Budgeting is the No. 1. Set aside a dollar amount to push your stallion, whether that’s social media or a magazine,” Nelson said. “Above all else, word-of-mouth is pretty big, and it’s free.”

Strategic Print Advertising

Because many mare owners book stallions in the spring, Miladinovich says magazine advertising during those months is a good use of your marketing dollars. She suggests researching all avenues within the magazine—for example, smaller ads in the back can help if your budget is constricting.

“You need to get your exposure out there with magazines, because they have a very good audience—the magazines reach everybody,” Miladinovich said.

Barron says they advertise in print magazines strategically.

“We’ll establish an advertising budget and stick to that,” Barron said. “We typically run ads at the beginning of breeding season—I think most stallion owners do that. Another ad we typically run every year, at the end of the summer, is a full-page ad.”

If one or more of “Fab’s” offspring win at a major event, Barron says they’ll sometimes place an ad afterward to congratulate the rider on their accomplishments—this could require being flexible with your marketing budget. Barron and Nichols aim to advertise at least four times a year in publications, and they also post those ads on social media.

Looking for strategies for marketing your stallion? These experts share tips for all budgets to help you reach mare owners.
Lisa Miladinovich promotes her stallion Aint Seen Nothin Yet across multiple platforms, utilizing print ads and engaging social media tactics while also keeping her external website up-to-date for potential clients who don’t use social media. Photo by Ross Hecox

“The biggest thing is making sure you’ve got something worth advertising about,” Barron said. “That’s why we quit doing a regular schedule of advertising, so we can place an ad in print media when a horse has a big win or we have big news we want to get out.”

Nichols says print media is still an important aspect of their marketing, particularly stallion editions of a magazine.

“Social media helps keep you in front of your audience on a regular basis throughout the year,” Nichols said. “If possible, don’t ignore the print media, as not everyone is on social media. Lots of people still look forward to their magazines each month, or at least their stallion registries each breeding season. We still pull out those stallion editions and go through them ourselves. People lose out on a lot of potential audience by not being in the Barrel Horse News Stallion Register.”

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Barron agrees.

“We use that one the most,” Barron said. “We’ve got every year of the BHN Stallion Register for the last 20 years, and we go back and reference those stallions.”

Consider Your Horse’s Life Stage

Nichols says the age of your stallion will also determine strategy. If you have a young horse and he’s not very well known yet, you may need to advertise more to give him more visibility until he’s established.

“A lot of it depends on if you have an up-and-coming stallion, or if you have one that’s been around for 23 years,” Nichols said. “A lot more people know who Fab is now, whereas 20 years ago, when we were just starting out, we did more advertising to introduce him. Now more of our advertising is to keep him current.”

Barron confers, saying without heavy advertising or a lot of offspring competing, it’s hard to get your stallion noticed.

Looking for strategies for marketing your stallion? These experts share tips for all budgets to help you reach mare owners.
Consider the message you want to convey to your potential clients. Whether it’s emphasizing soundness, conformation, pedigree, earnings or progeny, make sure that comes through in your marketing and images. Photo by Ross Hecox

“On a young stallion, you need to promote him in both print and social media along with exposing him to mares that will give him a chance to show what he can sire,” Barron said. “Good mares crossed with your stallion help promote your stud as well. Some people will buy and give their progeny a chance based on who the mare is.”

The Importance of Good Photos

Photos are crucial to promoting your stallion, whether it’s in print or online. Miladinovich taught herself how to take photos and pose her horses.

“I am very picky about how we want our stallions looking and presented in photos, because it can make or break a stallion,” Miladinovich said. “It’s really important
that you do your homework and get the right person to take your photos so that you’re showcasing your stallion in the right way.”

Miladinovich says poorly posed or photographed stallions can and will be criticized on social media. With her show horse background, she’s a stickler for the halter fitting correctly in the photo.

“For some reason, if the halter isn’t fitting correctly in a photo or if they’re in a bronc halter, it’s a big turnoff to me,” Miladinovich said. “I think they can make the horse’s head look bigger than it is.”

Miladinovich took online classes to learn how to build her own ads and how horses should look in photos.

“I think if you want to learn and have the ability to learn how to do that, great. If not, maybe you can hire somebody to help you,” Miladinovich said.

Miladinovich is a stickler for making sure her stallions are set up correctly with properly fitting halters in photos. Photo by Ross Hecox

Nelson prefers casual images with her horses for social media content but says a good photographer is crucial for stallion images.

“Finding a photographer with experience taking professional stud photos is key,” Nelson said.

Barron says the quality of photographs are extremely important to marketing efforts. Nichols says they will carefully comb rodeo, futurity and open event photographs for good ones to showcase the offspring of Fab.

“Bad photographs kill off your commodity,” Nichols says. “They will kill your eye appeal, and you only get one chance to make that first impression. You have to have good quality pictures for print and for social media. If we don’t have good quality photos for our ad, we just won’t do it.”

Barron says especially for a young stallion, quality photographs are imperative.

Choosing Incentives

Miladinovich now has Aint Seen Nothin Yet in 24 different incentive programs.

“It’s really changed the game of selling horses, buying horses and selling stud fees,” Miladinovich said.

Part of her marketing around these incentives includes educating mare owners. Miladinovich sends to mare owners with their breeding certificate a fact sheet with a rundown of the cost to enroll weanlings all the way to adult horses in these incentives, so they’re informed of what their options are.

Looking for strategies for marketing your stallion? These experts share tips for all budgets to help you reach mare owners.
Photos can make or break your stallion’s image. Thinking outside the box with a beautiful, eye-catching image can help if you’ve got a small marketing budget. Photo by Ross Hecox

“I think education is key there,” Miladinovich said. “I know [incentives] are money out-of-pocket, but you hope that the horses go on and do something, and you could possibly make that money 10-fold over later on.”

Miladinovich chooses incentives that her stallion’s breedings can support.

A mix of social media and print advertising can broaden your reach for marketing your stallion. Courtesy Lisa Miladinovich

“What drives us to be able to pay for having him in those incentives are the breedings,” Miladinovich said. “We just have to make smart choices in our business to make it worthwhile and make it work.”

Miladinovich also stands another stallion, 2012 palomino This Guyz A Keeper (Frenchmans Guy x Classic Keepsake x Dash For Cash), and he is only in six incentives. She says some folks aren’t concerned with a stallion they breed to being in incentives, but she put him in a few that were cost-effective for her marketing efforts, focusing particularly on incentives with added money offered at regional races.

“What it really boils down to is budget,” Miladinovich said. “If you have the budget to do it, more power to you, but sometimes you have to be smart about which ones you choose.”

Nelson chooses incentives that are affordable, usually ones with a one-time enrollment.

“I wanted to choose incentives that were more pocket-friendly to the breeder,” Nelson said.

Nichols says incentives are something a lot of people consider when looking into a stallion to cross with their mares but says there are still a lot of people who are more concerned with finding the best stallion match for their mare, no matter what incentives he is enrolled in.

Be Clear on Your Message

No matter your method of marketing, you need to have a message you’re conveying to mare owners. For Nelson, that means emphasizing Sunny’s soundness.

“He’s 17, and he’s never had an injection. He’s so, so solid,” Nelson said. “Having a horse for so many years and being able to say that; the longevity of a horse’s career is not something you hear that much of anymore.”

For Nichols and Barron, they know not every horse sired by Fab will go on to be a barrel horse, so they market him to mare owners in other disciplines, such as roping and steer wrestling. Fab had offspring at the 2021 NFR in barrels and steer wrestling. In past years, Fab offspring have been at the NFR in steer wrestling, team roping and barrels.
Nichols says you need to differentiate your horse—whether it’s emphasizing his earnings, his competitive career, his bloodlines, or the success of certain crosses.

Looking for strategies for marketing your stallion? These experts share tips for all budgets to help you reach mare owners.
While expensive, good promotional items like a coat will advertise your stallion everywhere you go. Courtesy Kenny Nichols

“You need to know what your commodity is, and what the message is that you want to send to people,” Nichols said.

Consider Promotional Items

One very successful initiative Nichols and Barron have implemented is promotional items. They’ve produced ball caps and jackets, and they’ve been very popular with barrel horse folks. Barron says the key is to spend the time on creating a good design.

“If you’re going with some kind of advertisement on a cap or a jacket, you’ve got to come up with a design people want to wear out—not just feeding their horses,” Barron said. “You spend a lot of money, so you have to make sure you’ve got a good design and product that people will want to wear.”

If you’re going to make promotional materials, choose designs that people will enjoy using and wearing. Courtesy Kenny Nichols

Nichols says the success of their promotional items surprised them.

“We’ve been amazed at the popularity of the caps—they’ve gone over fantastically well for us,” Nichols said. “It just helps with that name recognition to promote your stud.”

Nichols says don’t just hand these items to your clients. Consider giving them to folks who are fans but may not own a horse bred by your stallion.

Believe in Your Product

If you have a stallion, you will encounter critics. Miladinovich says don’t let naysayers get in your head. If your horse is hurt or unable to compete while you’re trying to promote him, you’ll have to work even harder to get the word out.

“You have to really stand behind your product and know your horse is going to be something. Live it, breathe it, think it and talk about it,” Miladinovich said.


This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue of Barrel Horse News.

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