This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dock Age – April 2012
With the summer season fast approaching, I want to take this opportunity to discuss the role marinas play in the overall marine industry, and how we can promote growth in boating to ensure the future success of marinas. It is safe to say that the marine industry is in crisis mode. Information provided by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) reveals some startling statistics about our industry that should have all marinas concerned about our future. Specifically, current research from NMMA reveals adiminishing supply of boats and boaters. There’s no doubt this will have a negative impact on marinas because they must react to what boaters demand and boat manufacturers produce.
According to statistical research and analysis from NMMA, the marine industry, including marinas, is facing an uphill battle against an aging population both in terms of the age of boaters and the age of their boats. NMMA noted that the percentage of boaters over 50 years of age is increasing, while the percentage of boaters between 30 to 50 years of age is decreasing. Moreover, the average age of boats in 1997 was 16 years, whereas the current average age of boats is 21 years and typically, their useful life is about 25 years.
My concern with these statistics is that if the industry doesn’t upgrade its boats and attract a younger demographic to boating, there will be far fewer boats and more boaters leaving the boating lifestyle. All sectors of the marine industry, including marinas, need to join together to grow boating.
The decline in the number of boats and boaters is not new. It has been going on since 1997 and accelerated between 2006 and 2010, according to NMMA.
In 2004, the recreational boating industry decided to do something to stem the tide and implemented the Grow Boating Initiative and the Discover Boating Campaign to promote the boating lifestyle.
The Discover Boating campaign is an effort to attract new people to the boating lifestyle by highlighting the positive aspects of boating as a pastime. The campaign also provides educational tools to assist consumers in selecting the right boat for their needs. The core foundation of this movement is that people have a passion for the water; it is contagious, and this helps people identify with boating.
The public relations campaign has evolved over the years, and the current campaign leverages existing boaters’ experiences to attract new boaters. The idea is to have existing boaters share their boating experiences with their family and friends, in person and on the Web. The campaign sees this awareness and/or seeing actual boating experiences as the first step to helping people discover boating. The goal is to have the new potential boater desire, consider and eventually, purchase a boat.
The campaign has a strong Web presence through the website (www. discoverboating.org) and the use of social media like Facebook (with 220,000 “Likes”) and Twitter. Grow Boating has recently updated its home page (www. growboating.org), implemented new site navigation, redesigned its boat selector tool, implemented a new “Get Started” section and developed a Beginner’s Guides to Boating.
By summer 2012, the Discover Boating Facebook page will help bring this concept into reality through the Video Creator template on the Web. This turnkey template allows boaters to upload photos and videos of their boating experiences (which may include your marina), and the Facebook app will allow the user to add personalized text, music and render it into a personalized boating video. The idea is to have boaters share this video with their friends and family to entice them to participate in boating.
Grow Boating will also catalog these videos so that potential customers can view them, if they choose to share with everyone. Boaters can choose to share videos only with family and friends, but the hope is that boaters use the Video Creator to document their boating experiences for everyone. The use of the Internet and social media takes boating directly to the younger generations who are the future of our industry.
One of the most popular tools on the Grow Boating site is the Spousal Conversion Kit, which focuses on letting “the water and wind work its magic” on significant others. The objective is to convince family members to invest discretionary time and money on boating.
Recognizing that there are many other activities people can and do spend their time and money on, the Grow Boating site offers a cost comparison tool that compares the cost of boating to other pastimes, such as RVs, golfing, attending professional sporting events and vacations. This effort helps to challenge the notion that boating is too expensive.
To help boaters in pursuing the “boating lifestyle,” the Grow Boating campaign offers tools to help potential boaters. It includes information on boating basics, such as anchoring, finding boating destinations and understanding the costs of boat ownership, as well as a list of courses consumers can take to learn about boating safety and education.
Grow Boating has created several short Web-based video advertisements for online sports and weather outlets, such as TheWeatherChannel.com and CBSSports.com, because TV advertising has become cost prohibitive. In addition, Grow Boating has produced collateral material and tools to assist in promoting the message and campaign. Marinas can use the materials to help promote the program to their boaters.
Any waterfront facility or marine business has the opportunity to grow a critical component of the initiative, which is getting current boaters involved.
As existing boaters become aware of the campaign, they are empowered to help promote boating to their family and friends.
The Grow Boating committee has made these resources available free of charge to marinas and boat dealers, but the industry needs your help in distributing the message. On the Grow Boating website, marinas will find promotional tools that everyone can use, including online videos that can be embedded into your website, as well as bumper stickers and window decals and DVDs for showroom displays. It’s all there, you just need to visit the site and order your free materials for this season.
Bridging the Gap
Marinas and boatyards have a real opportunity here to bridge the gap between boat manufacturers, dealers, brokers and the other segments of the marine industry. Remember that marinas are the gateway to the water for recreational boating, and if it were not for marinas, the industry would not be as big as it is today. The objective is to unify the marine industry to create a common voice and promote cooperation between the various sectors. The goal is to increase boating as an activity, attract new people to the pastime and ensure a strong industry for the future. I strongly encourage everyone to participate in this campaign. It is so critical to the future of every segment of the marine industry.
How can marinas do this? One way is for marinas to combine the Discover Boating Campaign “Welcome to the Water” with National Marina Day on June 9. This combination will create a strong message that will help educate boaters and non-boaters alike about marinas, the marine industry and the boating lifestyle.
I cannot stress the importance of marina involvement in Grow Boating. Be part of the movement or face the consequences. The marine industry can no longer be isolated into individual silos. We must work together to grow participation, focus on the customer, offer innovative and superior experiences for our customers, and welcome more people to the boating lifestyle.
I would like to call your attention to an article written by Ron Stone back in the March/April 2000 issue of Marina Dock Age called “Marinas and Manufacturers are Best Friends.” Stone said, “Clearly, there is a symbiotic relationship between marinas and the recreational marine manufacturing industry. Each needs the other for growth and economic success. It is essential that they work together.”
His words were as true then, as they are now. I encourage individual marinas to join and work with Grow Boating to actively promote the boating lifestyle to the next generation of boaters.