Q&A with Frank Peterson, president, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation

The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing segment of the population in the United States, but the group is not engaging in fishing and boating.

With that in mind, the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation officially launched a Hispanic outreach program this spring that will include advertising, partnerships with companies and local agencies, social media, events and more. RBFF President Frank Peterson presented many of the details of that program in a webinar last month.

Boating Industry recently talked to Peterson about the program and its importance for the industry. Be sure to check out the June issue of Boating Industry to read the full Q&A.

Boating Industry: Why did RBFF decide to tackle this issue?

Peterson: Every five years, the Fish & Wildlife Service does a fishing participation study. In 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 – all of the reports showed [a decrease in participation]. All of the sudden in 2011, it was up 11 percent and everyone was ecstatic.

Then we started digging into the numbers a little bit – where was this increase coming from? More women are fishing, that’s great. There’s a younger population fishing, great. We looked at ethnicities and that’s when we started to see a problem. In the time period where the Hispanic population in this country grew exponentially, Hispanics as a percentage of the total fishing population actually dropped.

By 2020, there’s going to be 66.3 million Hispanics and they’re going to account for more than half of the population growth. By 2050, they’re going to be a third of the population. So how can you ignore them? At the same time, the current fishermen and boaters are getting older.

Anyone who looks at population trends or the changing face of America has to realize that at some point we’re going to have start engaging this audience.

Boating Industry: What are some of the key barriers that have stopped Hispanics from participating in fishing and boating?

Peterson: The whole cultural relevance issue – it is not part of the heritage of this audience like it is among non-Hispanic whites. Language is an issue to a certain extent. Most of the people we’re going after are bilingual … and sometimes you have to provide materials in both [languages]. Rules and regulations, particularly on the fishing side – the idea of having to have a license to go fishing for something that is free in nature is counter-cultural for them.

Just the total lack of awareness of the sports, period. Univision, in the presentation that they came up and gave to us, showed the Top 30 outdoor activities that Hispanics engage in, and then the general market. Fishing and boating is right there in the general market, but not even on the page with the Hispanic market.

The other part of it is the experience. We have to provide experiential events for these folks … that idea of getting people out on the water. We’re trying to do that with 15 experiential events that we’re sponsoring with Disney and Univision, but we’re also trying to get some of the industry stakeholders involved. MarineMax has been a big player with that, so far listing about 20 events where they’re going to invite these people into their operations to enjoy some boating and fishing activities.

Boating Industry: You’ve talked about building mindshare before we can build market share. How are you doing that?

Peterson: We’re starting out in Texas and Florida. We’ll move to probably California, New York and Illinois next year, then nationwide after that with a large national media and experiential campaign.

We’re building a photo library that can be used in marketing. We’re working hand-in-hand with NMMA on some joint market assets. We’re coming out with a brand-new Hispanic “Get Started” boating guide. We’re working with Discover Boating on a new video … telling a story around a Hispanic family.

Just, in general, building an advertising campaign like we have on the “Take Me Fishing” side – without, by the way, negatively affecting the “Take Me Fishing” side. I heard a couple of comments that people thought we might start to ignore the general public. That’s not the case. We’re still spending more on the general public than we are on the Hispanic campaign.

Editor’s note: There are several resources available for companies that need assistance in marketing to a Hispanic audience on the RBFF website, TakeMeFishing.org, including research, webinars and a photo library. RBFF has also produced a series of Spanish-language how-to fishing videos available at YouTube.com/takemefishingfilms. 

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