Working harder to create a buzzPosted on Written by Chris Landry
Legendary Marine and Yamaha are pushing the promotional envelope to attract buyers in a shrunken market
“We have to be more attentive to our customers because there are fewer of them,” says Fred Pace, managing partner of Legendary Marine, which is also a dealer for Carver, Chris-Craft, Everglades, Four Winns, Hurricane, Sea Hunt, Hydra-Sports and Ranger. “And we have to nurture our customer base and work very hard so that when they decide to trade or move up or move down that we’re here for them.”
Destin, Fla.-based Legendary Marine — owned by Peter Bos’ Legendary Inc., a developer of high-end resort, retail and hospitality venues — held two separate events to introduce the 2011 Cobalt and Marquis lineups to that area of the Gulf Coast. For its Marquis party this spring, the dealership spent $5,000 to have a crane place a 420 Sport Coupe in a swimming pool for a head-turning nighttime display. In addition, a row of yachts was available for starlight boarding.
Luxury cars from Mercedes, BMW and Porsche sandwiched a red carpet leading to the Legendary Yacht Club entrance. It was upscale all the way, with an ice sculpture of the Marquis logo, a gourmet chef and a pianist. More than 200 people attended the three-hour gala, says Pace.
The party resulted in the sale of three yachts, he says. The owner of the 42-foot Sport Coupe in the pool bought the Marquis 500 Coupe that was on display, and the next day another person who attended the party purchased the 42-footer. The third sale was a 420 Sport Bridge, Pace says.
“We’ve had to adjust our marketing strategies and adjust the way we do business,” Pace says. “Getting more people involved, for us, is the strategy that’s working the best — anything we can do to get people involved and out enjoying their boat and having fun. That’s what we believe will help us get through these difficult times.”
‘Staying in tune’
At Yamaha, the economy’s effect on marine publications is what prompted the company to expand the attractions at its press events, says Martin Peters, Yamaha Marine Group communications manager. “About two years ago we couldn’t help notice the consolidation of some of the publications,” he says. “We saw individual journalists writing for multiple publications and multiple departments within a publication, so we tried to respond and give them plenty of reasons to come to our events.”
Yamaha sees media organizations as customers and, therefore, must stay in tune with their agendas, Peters says. “If you talk to them, they are under a great deal of stress and have to justify any time spent away from their desks,” he says. “We tried to make sure they could justify that time.”
As part of Yamaha’s press event in the Florida Keys in June 2010, more than a dozen media representatives aboard five Yamaha-powered boats documented the release of a rehabilitated sea turtle. They also toured the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Fla., where the turtle spent three months convalescing.
In June, Yamaha hooked up with the professional anglers behind the National Geographic Channel TV series “Shark Men” for a press event in Fort Myers, Fla. I was among the 20 writers, photographers and videographers who had an opportunity to test a dozen boats from 15 to 35 feet powered with Yamaha outboards from 70 to 300 hp.
We also had ample interview time and photo ops with the fishermen and researchers led by Chris Fischer, the man behind the television show and the founder of Ocearch, a non-profit organization that researches large marine species, such as great white and tiger sharks. The group’s mothership, Ocean, was anchored just outside the testing area at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa, and the crew led us on tours of the 126-foot former Bering Sea crab vessel.
The Shark Men helped attract the media to the event, and that gave Yamaha an audience to showcase its outboards. Yamaha engines power two of the Shark Men’s boats — a 23-foot Contender and a 21-foot Safe Boat, which was available for testing. The anglers use the boats to hook the sharks and bring them to the mothership.
“They are a great story, and certainly there is a secondary benefit in that the Shark Men provide us with a third-person endorsement for our product,” Peters says. “They use our product really hard. They’re unforgiving.”
Yamaha topped off the June 14-16 event with a third attraction. Sports watch manufacturer Reactor Watches of Agoura Hills, Calif., showed the media its Graviton 2 fishing watch. “It’s the most sophisticated tide watch that has ever been built,” company founder and president Jimmy Olmes says. “It gives you tide information as far as time, the tide height, sunrise, sunset, moon phase for all of its 275 locations. We designed it as a consumer, not as an engineer. Most of these watches become so complicated to use they’re impossible for the older generation to figure out.”
The stainless-steel watch weighs 8 ounces and retails for $550.
The Marquis was the largest vessel placed in the Legendary Yacht Club pool, but a Cobalt A25 was the first. Legendary invited Cobalt founder Pack St. Clair to attend that April event. “They did a terrific job with everything from the invitation list to greeting people as they came in to having one of our boats in a pool. They know how to do it,” St. Clair says. “This shows the difference between those who are doing well and those who aren’t doing anything. There is business out there, but you have to be somewhat creative and go after it.”
Legendary sold two Cobalts the day after the party and three the following week, Pace says, the largest a 31-footer.
“My hat’s off to the Legendary team because they’re quite a group,” says St. Clair. “They have been very successful selling boats and they’ve been with us as a Cobalt dealer less than a year.”
Marquis Yachts, based in Pulaski, Wis., worked closely with the dealership to plan the event and helped pay for it, Pace says. This type of alternative promotion works, says Erik Nelson, Marquis vice president of sales and marketing.
“We backed off on our regional boat shows a couple years ago and wanted to generate a more personal event for our prospects and existing customers,” Nelson says. “We want to bring the people to that yacht center instead of just offering the standard sea trials and showings. We wanted to generate a boat show atmosphere all year round.”
Marquis has hosted these “personal events” during the last two years in Hong Kong and Monaco, and in the United States at Singleton Marine Group in Georgia and YachtBlue in Fort Lauderdale, says Nelson. “We’ve tried to partner with some high-end luxury brands for some co-branding, whether it be auto manufacturers or spirits companies,” he says.
But they’ve never plopped a 31,000-pound yacht into a swimming pool. The bill for the Marquis party was about $24,000 — split between the boatbuilder and Legendary — but it was money wisely spent, says Pace. “Regional boat shows seem to have lost their horsepower,” he says. “We’ve really been experiencing diminishing returns in regard to boat shows.”
The Pensacola Boat Show was canceled this year, Pace points out. “We used to have two in the Destin/Fort Walton area, and they canceled both of them several years ago,” he says.
Legendary has had to overcome a double-dip of economic challenges with the recession and the Gulf oil spill. “They were probably hit as much as anybody with the oil problems and everything else, but they’ve come through,” St. Clair says. “We have learned a lot from them and how they approach business.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue.