Studies by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation show fishing participation increased from 46.2 million to 47 million last year. But within the huge 53-million-strong Hispanic market identified in the U.S. Census, only 1.67 million are reportedly fishing.
“The Hispanic community is sorely underrepresented in boating and fishing,” RBFF president Frank Peterson, RBFF says. “The demographic shift under way in America will have a profound impact on the boating and fishing industries. The key driver of this shift is the exponential growth of the Hispanic community and it presents us with a great opportunity to increase overall participation on the water.”
To do it, RBFF’s board last week gave the green light to a bold five-year Hispanic Outreach Plan. The focus calls for a multichannel outreach strategy that will include digital, social and traditional media. In addition, it calls for establishing a retail point-of-sale strategy and engaging with state departments of natural resources.
To its credit, the RBFF plan has a healthy long-term view. It will focus heavily on awareness and education in the upfront years aimed at driving trial and participation in Years 3 through 5. Preliminary focus group research undertaken by the Lopez Negrete Agency in Houston to develop the plan has confirmed Hispanics are less familiar with boating and fishing and what is required to participate.
“We’ve found Hispanics have limited role models in fishing and boating today,” Peterson says, “so they don't see 'themselves' in it or deem it relevant. It also follows that they’re unclear about any license needs or if, for example, they must take a test and so on. That’s a big gap we must fill.”
The timetable calls for RBFF to build the program’s digital assets in Year 1, then pilot the program in Year 2 (next spring) with select states (not named yet) that over-index in Hispanic population or have a higher propensity of Hispanic consumers. It will go nationwide after that. This will complete the extensive infrastructure for Years 3 through 5.
For the marine industry, there are several very encouraging aspects to all this. First, it’s notable that in spite of sequestration that cut 5 percent of RBFF’s budget this year and, presumably 11 percent next, RBFF remains solidly funded and committed to the Hispanic plan, Peterson says.
Second, the fact that RBFF has selected Lopez Negrete, the largest independent Hispanic agency (as opposed to an offshoot of an agency) is a huge plus and confirms the priority being given this objective.
Third, there’s no question RBFF’s initiatives represent an immense adjunct to our industry’s Discover Boating national “Welcome To The Water” campaign. Discover Boating has also increased its reach into the Hispanic community with such things as new boater guides in Spanish, bilingual guides in Discover Boating information centers at applicable boat shows and more Hispanics in boating videos, ads, social media and related materials, to note some. Moreover, the RBFF plan matches up with the six objectives of the Recreational Boating Leadership Conference.
Finally, it’s important to note that RBFF’s current successful programs like “Take Me Fishing,” launching ramps lists, general boating information and others are not being replaced by this new strategy. Says Peterson: “We see the continued growth in the Hispanic population as an opportunity to bring in new individuals to boating and fishing. Along with our other programs, this will help ensure the long term sustainability of two of America's favorite pastimes.”