‘More than an ad campaign’

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‘Welcome to the Water’ is launched, with a full arsenal of tools to attract newcomers to boating


The new Discover Boating campaign, “Welcome to the Water,” is up and running, and early indications are that it’s a success.

With websites, mobile sites, social media, radio spots, online advertising and more, the campaign is designed to bring more people into boating, which recent data suggest is growing in participation.

“Welcome to the Water is an open invitation for people to connect with the boating lifestyle and an opportunity for our industry to tap into the joy boating provides in order to compel people to take the step from dock to deck to join the boating community,” says Carl Blackwell, chief marketing officer for Discover Boating and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“By merging the passion and knowledge of current owners with the enthusiasm and desires of people who haven’t taken that step, Discover Boating is seeking to create something more than an ad campaign — it’s a movement toward boating,” Blackwell adds. “We rebuilt the foundation of Discover Boating by designing a more intuitive consumer website, developing a video that captures the emotion of boating and offering tools to stakeholders while building a better communications platform for the industry.”


The campaign was done in a rolling launch. The new website came online in early May, followed by ads on Facebook. The mobile sites were scheduled to come online in June and the new Facebook invitation planner, which allows boaters to invite friends to the water, was scheduled to go live in mid-June.


Though it’s early in the campaign, a look at the Discover Boating Facebook page shows people are paying attention.

The page, which last year jumped from 7,000 to 39,000 “likes,” passed 100,000 June 8, with hundreds of new people “liking” the page each day.

“I’m loving it,” Blackwell says, admitting he has been shocked at the huge jump in numbers.

“Our Facebook rep told us that we’re one of the most efficient campaigns he’s ever seen,” Blackwell says. “I think boaters are social animals. They’re very enthusiastic — the time of the year obviously plays into this — so everything’s lining up here for us.”

Running ads on Facebook has provided a cost-effective way to reel in people. Once the invitation planner piece is in place, the site should become more interactive. The planner allows boaters to invite Facebook friends to join them on their boat for a day, telling them what to bring and where to go. Discover Boating is working with the Places to Boat & Fish finder at the Take Me Fishing section of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s website on this piece of the planner.


Discover Boating can track the accepted invitations, and as more people take part the campaign becomes more discussed on Facebook. To add incentives, a weekly competition will be held to see who has done the best job of welcoming people to the water.

Prizes will be awarded weekly during the summer in four categories: sailing, fishing, cruising and water sports. Sample prizes include Sperry shoes, coolers, BoatUS, memberships and shirts or hats personalized with the winner’s boat name. The winners also will be featured each week on the Facebook page.

Last year, Blackwell says, people came to the site to play the Making Waves boating game, but the new approach should attract more participation.

“We really are relying on people to participate by inviting people out on the water. That’s how we’re going to be judged. I think the neat thing for us is we’re going to be working with BoatUS, RBFF and others to help gain participation this year because everybody wins,” he says. “The more people on the water, the more everybody’s going to win — whether you’re an accessories manufacturer, a boat manufacturer, an engine manufacturer, marina — everybody wins when more people participate.

“We think this simple invitation planner could be one of the more strategic things we’ve ever done with Discover Boating,” Blackwell adds.

Websites/mobile sites

The launch of mobile Discover Boating sites is also a large part of the new campaign because more people are deciding to browse the Web through their phones.

Blackwell says the site previously lost 15 to 20 percent of its traffic because users did not have a good mobile experience. Now, he says, when users call up the site on their phones they automatically will be diverted to the mobile site.

Enhancements to DiscoverBoating.com include robust search engine optimization, easier navigation, enhanced personalization for the user and an improved ability to gather and deliver leads. Other components of the retooled campaign will include pages dedicated to an introduction to boats, types of boats, how to buy a boat, a boat loan calculator and a strong local weather forecasting feature.

DiscoverBoating is now available as a U.S. website, a Canadian site in English and a Canadian site in French.

Also getting a fresh look to align with the new campaign is GrowBoating.org — the industry’s version of the Discover Boating site. The new site provides trade information for Marine Five Star Dealer Certification and serves as an entry point to the Discover Boating Lead System.

The most significant update is that it’s now easier for industry stakeholders to take advantage of Discover Boating digital tools and Web resources available on GrowBoating.org to reach more current and potential boaters.

Additionally, GrowBoating.org will include point-of-sale materials for stakeholders.

“The message [of Welcome to the Water] to me just resonates with so many segments of our industry — whether you’re a marina, a dealer, a manufacturer,” Blackwell says.


Blackwell says the campaign has created a video that can be used on TV in the future. Although it will run in Canada this year, the campaign does not yet have the money to run the video in the United States, he says. The collection program did not kick in until January, so first invoices did not go out until the end of February in some cases.

Blackwell looks at this year as one for building a solid foundation, with an eye to doing more advertising next year.

Discover Boating has partnered with former major league baseball pitcher Jack Morris, the 1991 World Series MVP and current Minnesota Twins announcer, for a national radio tour. Morris, an avid boater and angler, appeared in May on such national radio programs as Fox Sports Radio and Sporting News Radio and several top-tier local market sports talk stations.

Additional interviews are slated for the summer.

‘Get Off Your Dock’ Guide

Available on DiscoverBoating.com, the “Get Off Your Dock” guide has interactive features to help prospective boaters familiarize themselves with all aspects of boating, including a boat selector tool that compares boat types by activity, size and propulsion; a financing calculator; and other topics and tools, ranging from trailering and maintenance to naming your boat.

Blackwell says people now want to download information instantly rather than wait for a DVD to arrive in the mail. Future plans include adding accessory and engine information and a Spanish language version.

This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.


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