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Grow Boating task force to select marketer

The effort to relaunch Grow Boating is under way, with three companies today pitching strategies to the Grow Boating Agency Selection Task Force in Chicago for the industrywide campaign that seeks to draw more people to boating, NMMA president Thom Dammrich said.

"We're in the final stages of agency selection," Dammrich told Soundings Trade Only.

The NMMA hopes to make the final pick today - or by Monday, at the latest - and begin work on a strategic plan immediately.

The association will then seek to reinstate full funding assessments - beginning Jan. 1, 2011 - from the Grow Boating board of directors at the International BoatBuilders' Exhibition and Conference, which takes place Sept. 28-30 in Louisville, Ky., said Carl Blackwell, vice president of the NMMA and Grow Boating.

"If the board approves the proposed plan, the agency will work on developing the new campaign elements," Blackwell said. "We fully expect some components to be released upon their completion, but don't anticipate a full-fledged marketing campaign to happen until 2012 as we build up our available funding."

Funding assessments were halted during the recession because of financial problems faced by manufacturers and dealers. Although many businesses continue to struggle, Dammrich believes it's time to reinstate the effort.

The task force includes representation from the NMMA, Marine Retailers Association of America, and Sail America.

"We've got to promote the boating lifestyle," Dammrich said. "All of our data shows it works."

William McGill, president and CEO of MarineMax, agrees.

"I think efforts to grow boating is what our industry needs to be doing," McGill said. "[The number of] people who have the desire to get out on the water but aren't is probably as large as, or even twice as large, as the number of actual boaters. Anything we can do to bring people into boating, we need to be doing it."

Alan Bohling, CEO of Seattle Boat Co., also believes it's time to relaunch Grow Boating.

"Absolutely, we need to get Grow Boating back on solid footing and this is the time to get that public message out there," Bohling said. "I'm a huge believer in that."

As the economy improves, members of Generation Y will continue to find solid jobs and they'll need a place to focus discretionary income, Bohling said.

"[Generation Y] will gravitate toward boating if we expose them to boating," Dammrich said. "If we don't expose them to boating, they'll gravitate to something else."

— Reagan Haynes

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