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Progressive adds real value to shows

Walking the aisles of last weekend’s Progressive Tampa Boat Show, I came upon the Progressive Insurance exhibit and I was struck by the genuine value that was being added to the overall show by this sponsor.

Parenthetically, the Tampa show recorded another success and reflected the continuing trend of good attendance and increased sales at our industry’s fall shows. As one example, Galati Yachts St. Petersburg general manager Darren Plymale said: “It’s the best Tampa show in years, the market is strong and so we’re going to capitalize on our show with a special follow-up event back at our marina next weekend.”

But back to my observation about Progressive. There’s no doubt all marine trade associations relish getting sponsorship dollars for their boat shows. I recall that during my years managing shows, sponsorship money was as sweet as eating the filling in an Oreo. And, looking back, virtually all the sponsors I rounded up were satisfied just having their name in front of the attendees.

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So as I looked over the Progressive area in Tampa, I realized this sponsorship went way beyond name recognition. Progressive was actually adding genuine value to the overall show by providing a variety of experiences for show visitors. In truth, Progressive wasn’t just a sponsor, but a feature attraction that show manager Kevin Murphy wisely capitalized on by including everything Progressive was offering in the daily list of major show features and attractions.

A few examples: Under the banner of “Progressive Boat School,” a team from the Annapolis School of Seamanship was on deck to provide an array of interactive presentations in various kiosks ranging from “10 Steps to Becoming a Good Gilligan” (skills for a first mate) to actual “At the End of the Rope” tying, throwing and handling practice.

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It also incorporated the use of a boat-piloting simulator, a special pool with radio-controlled cruiser for docking technique skills, the latest in the use of electronics and tablets on the water, among others. In all, there were 64 presentations in three days at “Progressive Boat School.” But that wasn’t all.

Adjacent to the school area, Progressive had an exhibit boasting rods, reels and fighting chairs to take on big gamefish in simulators, an area for a family digital photo (with Flo pictured, of course), special T-shirt giveaways and more.

I’ve never seen a sponsor do more to enhance their image by launching a wide-ranging effort to engage the audience and, thereby, make a major contribution to the boat show experience for all attendees. It really sets a benchmark for sponsorship participation and building value.

While the Progressive example is certainly over the top for many smaller sponsors, the idea of creating something that will directly engage attendees and contribute to the overall show experience is not. It’s a conversation all show managers should have with their show sponsors in the future. It can be a win-win-win.

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