CHICAGO — Leaders of the industry-wide Grow Boating Initiative are encouraged by preliminary results from the program and believe forward movement is being made as the consumer campaign moves into its second year, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported in a release yesterday.
Those leaders gathered in Chicago last month to review results from the first six months of the program’s consumer campaign. GBI posted positive benchmarks across the board since its official March unveiling to consumers, NMMA said.
“Grow Boating has yielded promising results, including impressive numbers in the marketing campaign’s first six months, and we continue to set high standards necessary to achieve growth for the boating industry,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president and newly elected president of Grow Boating, Inc. “We measure the success of this initiative in a variety of areas to determine its impact on the non-boating population and we’re encouraged by the direction the initiative, and industry, are headed in the next few years.”
The initiative is comprised of four strategic focus areas: increasing and protecting water access, improving boaters’ sales and service experience, certifying boats to ensure boaters get a quality product, as well as Discover Boating, the national marketing communications campaign designed to help dreamers become boat owners and current boaters to enrich their experience.
Raising consumer awareness
In the six months since the marketing communications campaign launched, significant strides have been made in establishing overall awareness for Discover Boating, led by the comprehensive print, online and broadcast advertising campaign, NMMA said.
As part of the initial campaign push, more than 3,000 television spots aired, averaging 300 commercials per week. Nearly $1 million in additional coverage was garnered through added-value elements such as custom-made vignettes, sponsorships and special projects, significantly extending the reach of the campaign.
A notable campaign highlight was Discover Boating online banner advertisement appearances on CBS Sportsline’s live streaming video Web casts of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The live tournament Web casts drew record viewers and delivered nearly seven times more online reach than anticipated.
A sampling of target consumers, conducted by Russell Research prior to March, found 1 in 20 had heard of Discover Boating. Following first year advertising efforts, consumer awareness for Discover Boating had risen to 1 in 4. Consumers responded favorably to the campaign, with print ads reaching 68 percent likeability and television spots receiving 76 percent likeability; ad likeability standards suggest a likeability rating of more than 60 percent could produce a change in consumer behavior.
National advertising efforts were bolstered by public relations outreach on the national, regional and local levels, including placements in top media outlets such as Fox & Friends national morning show, CNBC, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Popular Mechanics and Reuters, to build awareness for the boating lifestyle and Discover Boating brand.
“Our first six months of advertising and public relations efforts were effective in raising Discover Boating awareness levels and directing consumers to DiscoverBoating.com as part of our overall Grow Boating timeline,” said Carl Blackwell, NMMA’s vice president of marketing and communications. “To further establish Discover Boating nationally, we will continue to focus our efforts on getting consumers to think positively about boating and driving visitors to DiscoverBoating.com to help those dreamers become boaters.”
Marketing communications efforts spurred a surge in traffic to the re-designed DiscoverBoating.com Web site over the previous year’s monthly totals, highlighted by a peak increase of 537 percent in June 2006.
As of the 2006 fiscal year close on Sept. 30, DiscoverBoating.com saw a 250 percent increase over the previous year’s site visits. The Web site drew more than 1.6 million visits from March through September 2006, with May and June seeing peak traffic. Site traffic during those months found DiscoverBoating.com drew not only prospective boaters, but a significant number of current boaters using the site for tips and destinations. Top referring sites to DiscoverBoating.com were Google, Yahoo!, CNN.com, and Weather.com.
Connecting with prospective boaters
While in the midst of a decade-long period of relatively flat sales, boat purchase interest research conducted as part of the Discover Boating Pre/Post Awareness Study by Russell Research, found the campaign successful at inviting new people to consider boating. Fewer people indicated they had no interest in ever owning a boat. In fact, there was a six percent increase in those shopping for a boat.
Research has found the boat buying process takes, on average, three years from the time a prospective buyer first considers the possibility through the actual purchase. While still in the early stages of being able to measure GBI’s impact on boat sales, goals were achieved in the overall GBI strategic plan, including the establishment of a growing database of prospective boaters and the addition of a growing number of interested individuals to the pipeline.
GBI has distributed nearly 41,000 “Get Started in Boating” DVDs to prospective boaters, mostly following requests from the interested party on DiscoverBoating.com. The current database includes more than 50,000 prospects, including 13,000 individuals who have requested direct dealer/manufacturer contact. In addition, nearly 159,000 direct manufacturer Web site referrals were sent from DiscoverBoating.com.
Enhancing the boating experience
Since March, the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program has gained momentum, with more than 360 dealerships enrolled, 100 of which have completed the process and earned the official “Marine Industry Certified” designation.
Product certification efforts led to the increase in total NMMA Certified boat builders to 170 in 2006, with 172 additional boat builders on their way to NMMA Certification with inspections completed or scheduled in 2006.
“We are impressed with the dealerships and boat builders who have achieved the ‘Certified’ distinction, it’s a commitment to improving the boating industry and they should be proud of this accomplishment,” Dammrich said. “Improving the sales and service experience at the dealer level, as well as improving product quality, are major elements of the Grow Boating Initiative and vital to our industry’s ongoing efforts to increase participation in boating.”
Efforts to increase and protect water access areas continue to move forward with the execution of several studies to measure the economic impact of marinas, as well regional trends in marinas and water access.
Dylan Jones, Water Access Counsel, was hired to lead the Water Access Protection portion of GBI, including the Water Access Committee Focus Teams. Water access efforts are centered on the following: permitting, policy reform, land use issues (mixing access and development), compiling data and outreach efforts to turn the tide on access issues.
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