Celebrity endorsements are marketing gold, regardless of what you’re selling, including the boating lifestyle.
When rising country music star Jake Owen signed on this spring for a second year of partnering with Discover Boating, both parties proclaimed it a win-win relationship.
“I’ve had sponsors and partnerships in the past, but it’s hard to find partnerships that go together so seamlessly,” Owen told Soundings Trade Only during a break in the filming of a promotional Discover Boating video aboard his 2015 Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV.
“I genuinely love boating,” he says. “There’s no pretending. It’s just easy to do these things with them because I love doing them, anyway. And it allows me to reach people who may not love country music, but they love boating.”
Carl Blackwell, president of the the industry's Discover Boating campaign, says past results made the decision easy.
“Jake was a cornerstone of our public relations and social media efforts,” Blackwell says. “By working with a celebrity, it gave us access to some mainstream media outlets that would have been much harder to get to on our own and that resulted in a much broader reach and more success stories. Jake’s social media reach is greater than our own, which is saying a lot, and we saw incremental gains in our social media followers by joining forces with Jake.”
Specifically, for the two days of promoting Owen’s Twitter Q&A with fans (June 29-30) about the boating lifestyle, Discover Boating earned 1.4-plus million social impressions and 700-plus new Twitter followers. In addition, #BoatingWithJake was used 475 times and reached more than 1.5 million accounts.
The partnership is primarily focused on public relations and media, such as the Twitter Q&A, along with the videos and photographs of Owen wake surfing and enjoying time on the water with friends and family that Discover Boating uses to reach outside the boating community.
The Discover Boating logo is prominently featured on Owen’s website as the Florida native tours with headline act (and fellow boating enthusiast) Kenny Chesney this summer with a new hit song, “Real Life,” and a new album on the way.
“Getting Jake to tell his story while on a boat opens more doors for us to get boating in the press,” says Blackwell. “It’s difficult to get an appointment with Rolling Stone magazine, let alone getting them on a boat to do an interview — that’s priceless.
“Our joint Twitter event helped us reach far more people in one day than we would reach in our best months,” he says. “Jake is a celebrity, so of course there is a financial component to this, so the length and scope of our relationship is limited to May through August.”
Blackwell notes that the 33-year-old Owen, who scored hits with “Beachin’ ” and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” also helps Discover Boating reach younger adults, which the industry knows is crucial to its future.
“It’s interesting that the everyday boaters that are showcased in our ‘Stories of Discovery’ documentaries have consumers just as engaged as the Jake story,” Blackwell says. “When you are on the water we all are just boaters, and I know Jake feels that way.”
Owen says he does, indeed.
“It’s funny that everyone loves a friend that has a boat,” he says. “I’ve had boats my whole life, starting with my parents’ boats, but the feeling of having your own boat is just like an escape,” says the married father of a 3-year-old daughter. “I can go out by myself or with friends and family and just forget about the day — and relax. It’s also a cool thing to bring your children up with. Boating is kind of an addicting thing and one that creates a passion.”
This year’s Discover Boating/Jake Owen initiative is more condensed than last year’s, a change primarily driven by the length of his tour with Chesney, which wraps up in late August.
Blackwell notes that because of his riding shotgun with superstar Chesney, and Owen’s own rising fame, his tour stops generate twice the audience with far fewer dates (20 in 2015 versus 50 in 2014) because of the size of the venues they are playing.
“Digital is really the sweet spot this year, as you’ll see both sides using our Twitter, Facebook — and new this year, our Instagram accounts — much more often to support the effort,” Blackwell says.
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue.