Summit votes to continue funding Discover Boating

A group of industry stakeholders have agreed to continue funding the Discover Boating campaign, citing its “ability and impact in attracting new boaters.”

Members of the Grow Boating Board of Directors, the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Boat, Engine, and Marine Accessory and Component Division Boards, the Marine Retailer Association of America’s Board of Directors, and invited guests, unanimously agreed to continue the industry-funded marketing campaign.

The decision was made during a two day ‘Grow Boating Summit’ held in Rosemont, Illinois just outside Chicago, on December 13 and 14.

(For more on the summit, read Bill Yeargin’s Boating Industry blog.)

Throughout the two-day Summit, which was partially underwritten by Wells Fargo Commercial Distribution Finance, the group learned from leading researchers and marketing experts from outside and within the marine industry on new boat sales and the overall economy, consumers’ buying behavior and shifts in expectations, marketing trends and impacts, and how the Discover Boating campaign has performed during the past decade. Key insights included:

  • Between 2005 and 2015, the recreational boating industry saw a net loss of more than 1 million boaters. Boaters are leaving faster than we can replace them. (Source: Info-link)
  • By 2025, if we continue at this pace, it’s projected that the number of boat owning households will diminish dramatically. (Source: Info-link)
  • Fifty-four percent of first-time boat buyers in 2005 are already out of boating. (Source: Info-link)
  • Between 2000 and 2015, the number of first-time new boat buyers dropped from 175,000 to 69,000. (Source: Info-link)
  • We must attract first-time buyers, but it’s easier said than done because tomorrow’s boaters will be very different than they are today—vastly different buying behaviors, education, income, and interests. (Source: Info-link)
  • Two out of three first-time boat buyers say they will not leave their personal contact information until the point they purchase the boat. (Source: 2016 Discover Boating/Olson First Time Buyer Research)
  • Consumers choose to go directly to a manufacturer’s website versus filling out a lead form on DiscoverBoating.com by 1,000 to one. (Source: 2016 Discover Boating Web Referral Study)
  • Discover Boating is the top-of-the-funnel for a lot of interested boaters—a major player in attracting first-time boaters. (Source: ARI)
  • Discover Boating is the No. 1 source of third party website traffic outside of search engines, for many boat brands. (Source: 2016 Discover Boating Web Referral Study)

“One of the more staggering insights shared by Info-Link is that we are losing boaters faster than we can replace them and if we don’t bring in more first-time buyers—and market to them in an effective way—our industry is facing a dramatic challenge that could negatively impact everyone’s business,” said Regulator Marine President Joan Maxwell said in a statement.

“Clearly, growing the overall number of boaters would be beneficial to all of us in the marine industry, which I believe can best be done through an industrywide program,” said Evan Davis, from OneWater Marine Holdings, the 2016 Boating Industry Dealer of the Year. “Discover Boating attracts and refers millions of potential boaters to manufacturer and dealer sites every year, but to maximize the value of these referrals, we need to find a better way to guide these individuals through the purchase and ownership process in order to convert more of them into lifelong boaters.”

“Consumers’ shopping and buying behaviors have changed dramatically since Discover Boating launched more than a decade ago–they’re less interested in leaving their personal data in a lead form and they’re hungry for information, doing extensive online research before considering or making a purchase,” said Carl Blackwell, president of Grow Boating. “Leading marketing expert Tim Sanders provided excellent insights on what consumers are demanding and how the industry can adapt our marketing and sales efforts. One of the key takeaways from the Summit was that Discover Boating needs to do a much better job helping the industry navigate consumers’ changing behaviors and understand the value of the referrals Discover Boating is sending to their websites.”

Following these insights, the group participated in organized discussions regarding the need and impact of the Discover Boating campaign. During these discussions, the group agreed Discover Boating:

  1. Attracts top of the funnel consumers—it’s a long-term effort to attract first-time boat buyers.
  2. Creates interest and referrals, not leads or sales. Discover Boating is best equipped to hand-off referrals to manufacturers and dealers who are best equipped to create sales.
  3. Provides resources to the industry that helps them effectively engage Discover Boating referrals so they eventually become sales.

As a result, the group directed Discover Boating to immediately focus on three key areas:

  1. Focus more on the experience. Future first-time boat buyers are seeking an experience. We must evolve the campaign from promoting the lifestyle to promoting experiences on the water.
  2. Improve industry and boater education. Discover Boating can help the industry market to the referrals it’s sending to manufacturers. Simultaneously, Discover Boating can improve how it educates the consumer by providing more balanced information on the rational and emotional aspects of boat buying.
  3. Discover Boating must conduct research to help the industry understand what’s causing attrition, focusing on why first-time boat shoppers are dropping out of the buying process and what is keeping lapsed boat owners from getting back into boating.

The group decided that the Grow Boating Board of Directors will guide these key areas of focus for the Discover Boating campaign, providing strategic direction and insight with support from a group of Summit attendees who agreed to participate in the process.


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