RBFF’s idea to focus on grandparents is a smart one

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The Recreational Boating Leadership Council gathered today in Chicago for an annual review of activities and programs that various task force groups are undertaking, while the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation has raised an interesting question about America’s grandparents.

The RBLC’s one-day meeting will look at the work of the six task force groups established several years ago to address a variety of issues. For example, the task force zeroing in on new markets for boats just announced its plan to undertake a major industry educational initiative in the form of a 45-minute industry training module that will include best practices by marine retailers that are successfully selling to diverse markets.

Credit four sponsors that have underwritten this $20,000 educational project — the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Freedom Boat Club and the RBFF. The latter took the funding lead by providing half the needed money, which isn’t surprising since the RBFF has been a leader in researching and promoting new markets. Witness the RBFF’s Hispanic outreach program “Vamos A Pescar.”

But, notably, the RBFF recently raised another market consideration worthy of exploration. Specifically, RBFF president Frank Peterson, addressing the National Marine Trades Council annual meeting, played what I call “the geezer card,” aka grandparents. Yes, I can say geezer and still be politically correct because (1) I am one and (2) I play the geezer card anywhere it gets me a discount.

That said, Peterson was actually calling attention to the fact that while we in the boating and fishing industries are putting major emphasis on wooing diverse groups — ethnic minorities and millennials — we can’t lose focus when it comes to these facts: (1) grandparents in America are annually spending $100 billion on their entertainment and (2) a handsome $52 billion is being spent on their grandchildren.

It means grandparents should remain a major marketing target for boating. Moreover, today’s grandparents are a younger and more active group than ever before, due in part to today’s emphasis on healthier lifestyles and advanced health care. Today, people in their 60s are just middle aged. “Seniors” is a label anyone under 75 abhors now. Old age is now considered 80-plus.

But here’s the best news. The geezers can afford to spend the billions because, as a generation, the so-called boomers and pre-boomers still hold the most wealth of any generation. That wealth will eventually pass down to the much smaller Gen Xers and, someday, the millennials. But right now, if you follow the money trail you’ll run into the geezers.

Truth is, I relish the time with my four grandchildren when we’re on the boat and I’m teaching them to fish. Watching them get a hit, then struggle to haul in a grouper or kingfish, not to mention the time spent tubing or anchored up off a beach, is enjoyable. Those opportunities to spend time sharing are worth every penny I have or ever will spend on the boat. We need to make sure that message is getting out to grandparents.

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