Freedom Boat Club expands growth, gains Wanda Kenton Smith

Freedom Boat Club will embark on a new venture next month, bringing all of their marketing efforts in-house for the first time.

As a part of this new strategy, CEO John Giglio has tapped Wanda Kenton Smith as their new Chief Marketing Officer – a brand new position within the company.

While the industry has been in slow recovery mode, FBC has seen significant growth. Since 2010, FBC has added 30 locations, 19 of which were added last year.

Kenton Smith took notice. Giglio originally approached her a few years ago when he first purchased the business, but Kenton Smith had a conflict of interest at the time.

FBC has stayed on her radar and as she considered her next steps, she reached out to a senior manager with whom she had previous contact to learn more about their current marketing activities and establish a dialogue. An exciting conversation about the future of FBC followed.

“I love that they are wide open to new ideas and are excited to ramp up their marketing investment. I believe it is going to be a great collaborative effort and I thoroughly enjoy that team-oriented environment,” said Kenton Smith.

While it was initially a tough decision for Giglio, as they have always outsourced their marketing efforts in the past, it was a logical choice to enhance the long-term interest in the brand and an opportunity he couldn’t pass up to utilize Kenton Smith’s diverse industry background. She has over 34 years of marine industry knowledge, 13 of which were spent managing her own advertising agency and PR firm.

“She’s an unbelievable talent in the industry so it’s going to be a great move for the club going forward,” said Giglio. “I’m hoping she’s going to teach me things about marketing and the marine industry that I haven’t even thought of. … I’m looking forward to getting her on board.”

Kenton Smith is equally excited for her new role, as she sees FBC as “a mover and shaker that is going places.”

“They have developed a winning formula that obviously resonates with the boating consumer,” said Kenton Smith.  “It’s an affordable option to boat ownership and has the potential to introduce the sport and lifestyle to large numbers of newcomers. That flat-out excites me!”

Her work as CMO will be a robust, two-fold role: She will own responsibility for day-to-day marketing efforts of the company stores and marketing support for the franchisees of FBC. She will also handle all public relations initiatives for both sides of the business.

Kenton Smith’s position becomes effective September 1. She will immerse herself in FBC’s boat club business and establish relationships with the franchisees to better understand their marketing needs. She will also meet with the existing outsource firms to develop a new internal marketing organizational structure, an area in which Kenton Smith thrives.

“It’s a dream job that has great potential and one that will allow me to do what I do best, and hopefully make a difference,” said Kenton Smith. “After speaking with the management team, I saw incredible opportunity to make a positive impact and difference by harnessing the marketing effort in a more streamlined and efficient manner.”

While Kenton Smith was previously involved with a number of different boat club models, she is becoming wholly educated on the FBC program to better service them in the marketplace.

“In simplest terms, marketing is marketing. You have a product or a service. You must define the targeted markets. You must develop a marketing strategy to reach those markets most efficiently, and then refine the key strategies, tactics and budgets necessary to achieve established goals and objectives for each,” Kenton Smith said, “The goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and audiences, however, will differ.”

In addition to adding the CMO role, FBC’s goal is to add 10 to 15 new locations a year. In 2013 they have already added five, one of which was in San Diego – their first push to the West Coast. They are currently reviewing opportunities in Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Maine and Virginia, among internal expansion possibilities for existing franchisees.

“As our brand continues to grow, it’s becoming easier and easier to find qualified people who want to be part of it,” said Giglio.

For more information on Wanda’s rich history of industry knowledge, visit and her LinkedIn profile.

One comment

  1. What a WIN-WIN proposition! So happy for both parties. Having known Wanda for many years and worked with her for the past several, I can feel the warmth and development that is coming up! A marriage made in heaven!
    Fran Olsen

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