The announcement yesterday by the National Marine Manufacturers Association that 2013 has seen the industry continue its post-recession climb with an estimated 5 percent increase in new powerboat retail sales is good news. Or is it?
As I see it, this shouldn’t make any of us happy, particularly if we compare it to the much better RV sales recovery. What it brings to mind, however, is that the RV industry has always invested more in its future growth than has boating, and our slow 5 percent growth sends a clear signal that we need to step up.
We’re all familiar with the highly successful “GO RVing” campaign. In fact, it inspired our Discover Boating initiative. They started “Go RVing” long before we got going. They’ve enjoyed universal RV industry support. They’ve continually invested more in it (twice our entire budget on media alone). Even in the recession they never quit, while we cut our program by 85 percent. That’s resulted in great awareness for “GO RVing,” primarily because it’s on TV nationally!
We must get Discover Boating back on TV. When it was, our awareness was at 37 percent. Without TV in 2013, we have 22 percent awareness. The difference equates to a positive impact on millions more people. There’s no doubt TV reaches more people and, thus, would strengthen all other marketing efforts.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting Discover Boating isn’t currently productive. It is. Despite being underfunded, it is delivering impressive results, such as hundreds of thousands of visitors to the “Welcome to the Water” website and thousands of leads sent to manufacturers and dealers. But it’s just not enough for an industry as big as ours. It would be exponentially better if we reach a larger audience, and that means a national TV campaign.
So today’s the day for making a New Year’s resolution. Let’s resolve to make our industry growth in 2014 much better than the 5 to 7 percent being predicted. Let’s invest more in our growth and open a serious discussion right now about increasing the funding for Discover Boating.
Specifically, our target should be annual funding of at least the pre-recession $14 million. Right now, the funding is only about half that amount. We simply can’t afford to reinstitute our once successful national TV ad campaign. Unless we commit to increasing the pass-through engine horsepower fee — in addition to getting all segments of the industry to begin contributing now — we’re simply not going to get there.
It’s not complicated. Our Discover Boating campaign increases awareness. Increased awareness leads to increased participation. Increased participation leads to increased sales. The real question is: Are we willing to start by increasing the current engine horsepower pass-through fee in order to drive our sales growth to more than just 5 to 7 percent in 2014?
So let the discussion begin right now, and make it a Happy New Year.