We Got ’em, But Can We Keep ’Em?


We’d never seen so many newbies getting into boating in one summer as we did during the pandemic of 2020. And while we’re focused on continuing that sales success, there also has to be actions taken to retain those new boaters, lest there be an unpleasant 2021 exodus.

It’s timely that the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the global market-research firm IPSOS teamed up to complete a national research study revealing needed insights for retaining and engaging all of those new boaters and anglers.


The study, “Casting a Wide Net: Identifying New Anglers and Boaters and Determining Tactics for Retention,” projects millions of new and returning boaters and anglers to the sport, and supports the industry in understanding who these new participants are and how best to engage with them. Some notable findings from the study include:

• New anglers and boaters are younger, more urban and more diverse. They are also highly socially connected.

• Three key elements of boating and fishing are the main motivators to these new boaters and fishermen: 1) social connecting with loved ones; 2) the challenge inherent in the activities; and 3) the connection to nature they offer.

• Conversely, the study revealed the four biggest barriers faced by new boaters include 1) balancing other priorities; 2) not having the proper equipment and not knowing about affordable options; 3) not having enough hands-on experience; and 4) not having a boating or fishing companion.

• On a positive note, a whopping 90 percent of new boaters and anglers indicated they would like to continue boating and fishing in the future.

Some actions dealers and local boating organizations can consider taking to retain this new audience include:

• Remind newcomers of the great boating and fishing experiences they had in 2020 using social media, emails, pictures, customer days, hands-on events and so on.

• Highlight convenient, easy water access and places that offer new family boating adventures for 2021.

• Provide beginner educational resources, perhaps in partnership with an organization like America’s Boating Club (formerly the U.S. Power Squadrons) or your local Coast Guard Auxiliary unit. Sponsor hands-on practice days at the dealership, etc.

• Make it a point to emphasize the social aspects of owning the boat and enjoying fishing, water sports, beaching and similar activities with family and friends.

• Recommend cost-effective equipment for such activities as tubing or fishing, as well as on-the-water restaurants or hot spots where they can tie up and have fun.

“Throughout 2020, fishing and boating provided Americans with much-needed encouragement,” says RBFF president and CEO Frank Peterson. “As we look ahead to 2021 and beyond, engaging with these newcomers will be an integral part of the industry's continued success. And with that in mind, this new study provides data-backed insights to help boating and fishing organizations retain these non-traditional new audiences.”

RBFF is a national non-profit, and while programs such as Discover Boating are undergoing major changes, RBFF continues to nationally promote and grow boating and fishing, and has steadily done so for more than 20 years. Through its brands “Take Me Fishing” and “Vamos A Pescar,” RBFF has led the way in increasing participation in our sport.

Click here to download the complete research report, along with accompanying infographics that provide other key takeaways for boating and fishing.


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