Grow Boating plan in the works

CHICAGO and BOCA GRANDE, Fla. – Boat builders and dealers alike are ready to see the Discover Boating promotional campaign restored, assuming market conditions have improved enough to support it.

However, in the meantime, controversy continues over the redirection of 85 percent of the Grow Boating surcharge funds to manufacturers for use in assisting dealers in marketing product throughout the downturn.

In an effort to resolve dealers’ concerns, National Marine Manufacturers Association President Thom Dammrich invited Marine Retailers Association of America President Phil Keeter and MRAA Chairman Ed Lofgren to speak to the NMMA’s Boat Manufacturer Division during their Feb. 10 meeting in Miami.

While Lofgren described the Grow Boating Initiative as a “very worthy all-industry endeavor, well worth preserving and enhancing,” he said, “There is the perception of the lack of transparency and the lack of accountability in the diversion of these funds among dealers nationwide.”

Phil Keeter explained that MRAA is not accusing manufacturers of abusing Grow Boating surcharge funds, but rather issuing an appeal to get the Grow Boating Initiative back on track.

“It’s mainly a matter of good communication,” said Keeter. “Many dealers report seeing little or none of the funds in question.”

Dammrich agreed in an interview on Friday that communication is the central issue at hand.

“I believe there was recognition that although manufacturers had spent many multiples of their redirected assessments assisting their dealer networks to move product in dealer inventory, most manufacturers did not tell the dealers, ‘The funds we are using to assist you are, in part, redirected Grow Boating assessments,’” he said.

If such Grow Boating decisions had to made again, Dammrich said the only change he would make is encouraging more communication.

In concluding his presentation to the NMMA board, Keeter asked the group to lend their weight to a decision to reverse the 85-percent redirection of the Grow Boating surcharge funds, and either use the limited funds to get the program moving again or accumulate the funds until a full Grow Boating Initiative could resume. While Dammrich told MRAA a written reply to their request would be issued shortly, news of the outcome has yet to be released.

In the meantime, Dammrich suggested that plans for the future of the Grow Boating Initiative are now beginning to be formed.

“We cannot assume that our prior research, strategy, messaging and methods remain relevant today,” he said in the interview. “We need to begin by starting over and developing a strategy, messaging and a promotional plan that will impact today’s changed consumer. We plan to begin work on this immediately and complete a new plan as soon as possible.”

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