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Are we overlooking African-Americans?

There is so much being written and said about diversity, particularly getting our boating lifestyle message out to the growing Hispanic market. But when we talk about diversity these days, are we looking past the African-American market?

If diversity wasn’t on my mind, spending time in the “Affordability Pavilion” at last weekend’s Progressive Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail brought it into focus. After all, Miami is more than 60 percent Latinos. So, yes, I expected to talk about boating with many, many Hispanic families and I did. But I also talked with many African-Americans and, upon reflection, I see it will be a mistake if we get so focused on reaching Hispanics that we fail to pursue the big African-American market.

There are 44 million African-Americans in our population. What’s more, in 2013, they had a buying power of $1 trillion, according to the market research report “The African-American Consumer Market, 9th Edition.” Moreover, in the next three years, that buying power will increase $300 million to $1.3 trillion. That’s good news, but there’s even more.’s Package Facts, a leading publisher of market studies on consumer products, found that when compared to other consumer groups, African-Americans are driven by their economic optimism, particularly when it comes to their own future personal finances.

In spite of what’s often said these days about income equality and the like, research shows African-American adults are 53 percent more likely than the average consumer to have positive expectations for the U.S. economy overall. This, in spite of being portrayed as the most negatively impacted demographic by the recession. Further, African-Americans will and do spend on high-quality, trendy and brand-name products.

As a general rule, African-Americans consumers are also highly receptive to product advertising. In particular, they’re influenced by electronic marketing, i.e. Internet and smartphones. They also participate in social media.

So are we overlooking the large African-American market? It appears so. An anecdotal check shows, as an industry, we’re definitely failing to include this group in our media campaigns. Check out the boating magazine ads or major websites for yourself.

Fortunately, there are a couple of exceptions. First, our industry’s national Discover Boating campaign is aggressively trying to reach minority markets by including African-Americans in its media. And, that will be ramped up even more going forward, according to Grow Boating chairman Joe Lewis.

Second, while the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation has started an unprecedented five-year strategic national effort to attract more of the Hispanic market to boating and fishing, RBFF president Frank Peterson quickly points out that African-Americans and Asian-Americans will continue to be key demos featured in the RBFF overall program.

However, those two programs, as good as they are, simply won’t get it done alone. To grow boating, we must show our sport as attractive to minorities. They must see themselves experiencing the boating lifestyle. To start, manufacturers and dealers must join the movement and aim some boat advertising and marketing campaigns at these groups.



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