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The untapped Hispanic market

Family and togetherness are themes that are emphasized when reaching out to the Hispanic market.

Family and togetherness are themes that are emphasized when reaching out to the Hispanic market.

More than 53 million people of Hispanic origin live in the United States today and Hispanics account for 55 percent of all U.S. population growth during the last decade. The Hispanic population is expected to reach 65 million by 2020, with the largest concentrations in California, Texas, Florida and Illinois — all states with a strong boating and fishing culture. Yet only 8.4 percent of U.S. boating participants are Hispanic. The potential for growth in the emerging Hispanic markets is enormous, but the marine industry may be missing the boat. That was the message Ed Cantú delivered during the Marine Marketers of America luncheon at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Cantú is the director of consumer insights and planning for Lopez Negrete Communications, the Houston-based marketing firm that the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation hired to develop a five-year Hispanic market outreach plan. The firm launched the Spanish-language website in April; the site has received an impressive 181,000 visits in the first five months, an average of 35,000 a month.

Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, with an energetic, youthful, increasingly wealthy and educated population that values family-oriented activities — a seemingly ideal fit for the boating market. Yet this potential market has barely been tapped, Cantú says.

“We have heard, ‘This is the decade for the Hispanics,’ over and over, but we’re still trying to get fishing and boating on the Hispanic map,” he says.

Cantú described the challenges of developing a marketing plan directed at Hispanics and outlined strategies designed to tap this under-served market. The website recently won five Davey Awards from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts, including a website award for branding and a mobile website award for education. The Davey Awards recognize creative and out-of-the-box thinking in website and mobile marketing designs. “ has once again been recognized for its design and creativity,” says RBFF president and CEO Frank Peterson. “A great deal of effort went into creating a website that is both effective and appealing to the Hispanic audience. It’s rewarding to see that our work to increase participation in fishing and boating has been acknowledged with these prestigious awards.”

The site has Spanish- and English-language versions. It offers information on obtaining fishing licenses, how to fish, when to fish and where to fish, and includes interactive maps on bodies of water and the fish species that live in each of them. Instructional videos on fishing can be viewed in Spanish or English. Click-through ads feature products and services related to fishing and boating, such as a Disney ad that features a “Reel in the Fun” sweepstakes and includes a chance to win a four-night stay at a Disney World resort.

When developing a marketing campaign directed at the emerging Hispanic markets, there is a real need to pay attention to details and understand Hispanic cultural subtleties, Cantú says. “There is an awareness needed from the beginning of any marketing campaign that targets minority markets.”

Within the Hispanic culture, for example, the focus is on family, safety and inclusiveness. Google analytics showed the top search term that brought traffic to RBFF’s was “activities for kids.” And instead of a direct translation, RBFF’s Take Me Fishing campaign was changed to Vamos a Pescar, which translates to “Let’s Go Fishing.”

“Hispanics need to be asked, not told. It’s an inclusive culture, and important to include others. Part of the campaign is understanding that Hispanics are coming from a different starting point and have a different motivation,” Cantú says.

Statistics supplied by Lopez Negrete describe a population segment that could be a potential gold mine for the boating industry:

  • Hispanics accounted for 55 percent of U.S. population growth between the years 2000 and 2012.
  • The median age of Hispanics is 28, versus 42 for a non-Hispanic white.
  • Hispanics contributed $700 billion in consumer spending last year.
  • Affluence is on the rise. Between 2000 and 2012, there was a 152 percent growth in the number of Hispanic households that earn more than $75,000.
  • Outdoor spending is on the rise. In 2012, Hispanic outdoor spending was up 73 percent, compared with a decline of 9 percent for non-Hispanic whites.
  • 3.6 million Hispanic households earn more than $75,000. The number of households earning more than $50,000 has increased 200 percent.

“This is a younger, optimistic group that enjoys the outdoors and is closing the education and income gap,” Cantú says.


The largest Hispanic populations are centered in the Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, New York and Chicago areas, all of which are on the water, but it’s important to remember that Houston and Miami are miles apart, Cantú says. The Mexican-origin population group makes up 60 percent of Hispanic Americans and this group represents the dominant culture segment in California, Texas and Arizona.

Puerto Rican and Dominican Hispanics are the dominant culture groups in New York, and Hispanics of Cuban origin dominate Florida. Each Hispanic-American group values the cultural nuances of its country of origin, and marketing approaches can vary greatly among these cultures. Many Mexican-origin Hispanics have a low experience level with boating and little experience with boat ownership; many do not have fathers, uncles, cousins or friends who owned a boat.

Because many of the Cubans that originally immigrated to South Florida were educated, older and affluent, they were used to being decision makers, Cantú says. They have been welcomed in dealer showrooms and treated as prospective buyers. Mexicans, on the other hand, have faced frustration in mystery shopper studies and have been treated as “low prospects” in marine-industry-based stores.

RBFF’s mystery shopper study and report details the demographics, population centers, incomes and spending power of the U.S. Hispanic population. The report outlines ways that businesses can overcome barriers when marketing to Hispanics. For example, assume Hispanic customers have limited boating experience, but don’t assume they have limited spending; create a family-friendly environment and make the product of boating and fishing fun and exciting. Suggested steps toward improvement for retailers include prioritizing stores based on Hispanic density and employing bilingual and bicultural staff. The results also include suggestions for improvement for manufacturers and state and federal agencies.

Freedom Boat Club president and CEO John Giglio says his organization has taken the study results to heart and is now analyzing areas of the country that would warrant such a marketing campaign. “As Ed noted, the Hispanic customer base in many areas can be reached through traditional advertising,” Giglio said. “We are currently exploring dedicated marketing efforts in South Florida and Texas,” he said, and suggested his organization “can act as an easy gateway into boating.”

The full 38-page report, a major source of information for anyone in the marine industry intent on capturing the Hispanic market, is available online at

Despite the cultural differences within the Hispanic demographics, all Hispanic groups value family, Cantú says. “It is important in the Hispanic community not to say, ‘Look at me,’ but rather, ‘My family has made it.’ Boating in the Hispanic community is not an individual with a boat or a man out fishing with other male buddies, but an inclusive activity with extended family and friends,” he says.

By its inclusiveness, boating reflects the value Hispanics place on progressing in a way that lifts the community.

“It’s called individualistic collectivism,” he says. “A rising tide carries all boats.”

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue.



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