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Boating council busy with new initiatives

The members of the Recreational Boating Leadership Council gathered in Chicago on Tuesday to review progress and identify areas for continued emphasis.

“It may have been the best meeting in the four years since the initial Growth Summit resulted in the formation of six working groups to undertake growth initiatives,” said Matt Gruhn, chairman of the council and president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “The reports and discussions were dynamic and the progress being made by various groups is genuine.”

For example, the youth initiative has established an extensive youth program database and is now focused on two things: (1) Prepping the database for the promotional opportunities that are slated to begin on March. 2; and (2) Determining how best to manage and maintain the database as an effective tool going forward.

Meanwhile, the new markets initiative (originally called the diversity task force) reported on its recent success in acquiring the necessary funding to produce and launch a training video for retailers illustrating practices that can successfully reach new prospects. The video is expected out next spring, new markets chairwoman Wanda Kenton Smith said.

The advocacy and accessibility initiatives is focused on the industry’s next American Boating Congress. A major goal is to build more attendance from all corners of the industry. Another target is more co-host organizations signing on for 2016. This group conducts regularly scheduled conference calls and updates with National Marine Manufacturers Association legislative council Jeff Gabriel.

Not surprisingly, the industry’s Discover Boating campaign and the boating and fishing programs of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation reflect the direction of the council’s marketing initiative group. Co-chairmen Joe Lewis (Mount Dora Boating Center) and Carl Blackwell (NMMA) say Discover Boating really crosses over to many of the council’s initiatives. “For example, a major part of DB is aimed at touching a younger and more diverse audience,” Lewis said. “In our imagery and videos, the DB website embraces the diversity the new markets initiative calls for.

“Our ‘Get on the Water’ page shows affordable ways to start boating. In education area, we've listed both youth programs and adult training programs. DB has had an incredibly successful year,” he added.

The affordability initiative is aiming at the development of a tool kit on the subject. The concept is complete. Obtaining funding for building it out is the current effort and the group is considering possible crowdfunding or some assistance from other council members.

It’s interesting to observe that when it comes to discussing access and affordability of boating these days, our views have changed from what they were just a few years ago. For example, where once the industry saw buying a new boat as the only acceptable route to ownership, industry awareness has clearly widened. These days a new boat purchase is not seen as the only opportunity to get first timers on the water. Boat rental clubs, like Freedom or Carefree for example, not to mention the whole used-boats picture, are now acknowledged as affordable ways for families to "test the waters.” No doubt that with good boating experiences, these prospects could easily be on the path to a new boat purchase.

Overall, the Recreational Boating Leadership Council continues to move forward with its various initiatives, all unified by one goal — to motivate people to go boating.

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