With boat shows, the NMMA promotes warm thoughts


Brent Renneke
February 5, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

It was bitter cold in Minneapolis last week, but it was the goal of the National Marine Manufacturers Association to make people forget the unfortunate temperature while walking the boat show floor.

One way that objective is achieved is through innovative features, which the NMMA increased at its network of boat shows, including the addition of huge water tanks for activities like scuba diving and paddle boarding.

At the Minneapolis Boat Show, specifically, visitors could try scuba diving and paddle boarding, as well as take advantage of numerous educational opportunities, like those offered through Welcome to the Water for new boaters and Fred’s Shack for those wanting to learn more about their boat.

The objective, according to NMMA vice president Ben Wold, is to have activities that appeal to a wide range of demographics that not only bring people out to the show, but also add value for those already there.

“We have these different groups, now we need to provide a unique experience for each one of them,” Wold said.

Fred’s Shack, which is in its second year, has been particularly successful in adding that value to the boat show, according to Wold, who said the do-it-yourself seminars have actually brought people to the shows.

“It is really amazing that education can be a real attendance builder when done correctly,” he said.

At the Minneapolis Boat Show, show manager Jennifer Thompson said boating introduction seminars offered through Discover Boating’s Welcome to the Water have also been helpful for the novice who may be intimidated by the boat show atmosphere. The different seminar tracks cover topics like financing a boat purchase and choosing a segment in an unbiased manner.

In the 2012-2013 boat show season, Wold said it was a mission to not only grow education offerings, but to also grow features that get guests in the water. A recovering economy, as well as the Progressive Insurance sponsorship, has helped facilitate the increase in offerings.

For harsh weather climates during boat shows (like in Minneapolis), the features are an escape for attendees, and it is an introduction to the boating lifestyle, according to Thompson.

“For January in Minnesota, those opportunities to just see what these activities feel like are pretty cool,” Thompson said.

Wold said all the offerings contribute to the idea that boating is fun, and the variety of activities remind attendees that there are many different things you can do on or in the water.

“The old days of plopping down $10, walking around and having a hot dog are over,” he said. “We have four or five different demographic groups, and when they come to the show they want things specific to them.”

While in-the-water activates may be for the more active, Wold said boat shows this year also offered a more relaxed, social setting for affluent empty nesters.

At the Minneapolis Boat Show, as well as at others, a foggy lake scene was mimicked and more upscale food was served. Wold said they are looking to add more features for the affluent, including valet parking and a pass that would allow them to skip lines for a boat they would like to tour.

Overall, Thompson said these features, as well as the created environment, provide warm thoughts of being on the water as an escape.

“By this time in the winter, everyone is ready for the open water,” she said. “We try to make that sunny, 70s atmosphere on the show floor.”


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