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Total immersion in the boating experience

Discover Boating is using social media to put the “ing” back in boating. That’s what the program’s marketing manager, Carl Blackwell, told more than 300 people who joined a webinar in May that demonstrated how the national campaign is using social media to spread its message.

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“Boating, sailing, wakeboarding — we’re promoting the experience,” he says.

Blackwell unveiled three new ads that highlight different aspects of boating. At the end of each, a voice says: “Things just change out on the water, most of all you,” followed by, “powered by the recreational boating industry.”

“We’re promoting what happens to the consumer when he gets out on the water, because people change,” Blackwell says. “That’s the message we’re trying to portray to consumers.”

The first ad, called “Make it Rain,” is a youth-targeted spot that features wakeboarders and PWC. It will be embedded on websites such as Yahoo Sports, Blackwell says. “Because they can’t click off the ad if they want to see the content they’ve chosen, consumers are 50 percent more likely to pay attention to the ad than they would on cable,” he says. When the video the viewer has chosen comes on, a banner ad for Discover Boating will urge the consumer to click for a free Discover Boating DVD.

The second 15-second spot, called “Cannonball,” revolves around connections with family and friends and “making memories,” Blackwell says. (Grow Boating chairman Joe Lewis makes a cameo in the video.) That ad will appear on high-traffic sites such as Discovery.com, Blackwell says.

The pace has been slowed slightly in the “Catch of the Day” video, which will appear on sites such as Fox Sports, he says. “We think that’s a really strong message to get out there and hopefully it will gain us some trust and recognition with consumers,” Blackwell says.

A hundred million consumers watch at least one piece of video a day on the Internet, he says. “That number is just exploding and we’re right there on the forefront,” he says.

The click rate has increased by two times from last year. “It really is an accepted practice to watch online video,” Blackwell says. “Last year I rarely clicked on them because the high speed wasn’t that good, so the quality wasn’t as good.”

Websites that will run the ads include the Weather Channel, Major League Baseball, National Geographic, CBS Sports, the Discovery Channel and ABC News. Dealers and manufacturers can also embed the spots on their websites so customers can see them without being diverted to another page.

Discover Boating won’t just push out the videos as preroll ads before other videos. There also will be a banner ad on sites that will expand when a consumer scrolls over the image. “On that you can see the opportunity to view three videos, go to the boat selector tool and have the opportunity to get a free DVD,” Blackwell says. “We’re finding that, more often than not, consumers are clicking on more than one.”

Time spent with Discover Boating’s units have surpassed industry benchmarks by 38 percent.

With mobile Internet use expected to surpass desktop use in the next two years, the campaign also is focusing heavily on the smart phone and tablet industries, Blackwell says. The click rate is six times higher for a banner on a mobile device than for traditional online banners.

A Discover Boating banner on the Weather Channel’s app is tailored to the day’s conditions and varies by region. For example, on a sunny, warm day, it will say: “It’s another amazing day to hit the water at 78 degrees. Come see life through the eyes of a boater,” inviting viewers to click on the ad. “It’s triggered by the weather,” Blackwell says. “You may have a different ad in L.A. than in Chicago. If it’s cloudy in Chicago, you’re going to see two different messages.”

So far the interaction rate is outperforming the Weather Channel website’s other advertisers by 20 percent, Blackwell says. Mobile device users who click on the ad are taken to the mobile website, which is a different experience. “You really need to customize that mobile experience [to that platform],” Blackwell says.

The campaign is also going to focus more heavily on helping the industry use YouTube to its fullest potential, Blackwell says. That will involve a webinar led by Josh Chiles of Engaged this summer.

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue.

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