Press Releases

A Time for Transformation: 2023 Boat Show Season Catapults Discover Boating Strategy to Year-Round, Omni-Channel Industry Lifestyle Brand

In these last days of 2022, the Discover Boating team, powered by MRAA and NMMA, is reflecting on a successful year while looking ahead to continued momentum in 2023. Our challenge: Overcome limited growth potential among current customer demographics and grow our industry by improving outreach to more diverse social, cultural, ethnic, and gender demographics. Our solution: A new Discover Boating strategy put in motion back in 2020.

Part of this strategy included a new approach to our marketing—ensuring we connect more directly with a much broader group of potential boaters. The “See You Out Here” campaign is designed to do just that and in its first year delivered promising progress: a 145% increase in visitors ages 18-44 to, an age range known to include more diversity, and 31% more women, compared to pre-pandemic levels. Discover Boating accomplished this through targeted, efficient, and deep marketing and PR tactics (like this, this, this, this and this) as well as the launch of the 2022 Discover Boating Miami International Boat Show, resulting in record annual reach with more than 1.2 billion impressions (the number of times the campaign was served to consumers). Don’t just take my word for it – watch the results reel!)

With a renewed focus on attracting the next generation, Discover Boating welcomed these potential boaters – as well as current boaters – to to explore how to get on the water and how to navigate their boating experiences. This work resulted in a 53% increase in site traffic from pre-pandemic periods. The encouraging jump in younger audiences engaging with Discover Boating also means our work in the coming years must focus on maintaining our reach while nurturing these prospective boaters. That’s why a priority within our rolling three-year strategic plan is focused on ongoing digital transformation.

A lot of brands throw around the words “digital transformation” but don’t define what it specifically means for their business. For Discover Boating it means connecting our consumers with all-things boating 365/24/7 through direct access to dealers, boat brands, boat clubs, rentals, boat shows, fellow boaters and more—anytime, anywhere. Our brand (manufacturer) referrals have been a cornerstone of our efforts over the years as we hand off prospective boaters for brands to nurture. Yet, our future customers want more. They want to know which dealers are near them, which boats they sell and whether they have great customer service – and they want to do this through a trusted resource like Discover Boating.

This knowledge is what informed the creation of a new Dealer Finder, which Discover Boating recently launched (learn more here!). In initial testing of the page, without even having marketing behind it yet, it’s seen more than 4,000 pageviews and visitors spending an average of 6 minutes—three times industry averages!

Prospective boaters also want to see ALL the latest boat models in one place, any time, to enhance their boat show experience. It’s this knowledge that informed the creation of the Boat Finder, which launched as a beta in 2022 and will hit NMMA boat shows starting this January as an enhanced version 2.0. (If you’re exhibiting at a Discover Boating Boat Show, don’t miss the chance to compete, secure new referrals from shoppers, and grow brand awareness—contact [email protected] or learn more here.)

The coming year will see the new Dealer Finder, new Boat Finder, and existing Brand Finder, begin to work together and be amplified through the 11 Discover Boating boat and sports shows – from Miami to New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and other major markets across the U.S. – and awareness marketing campaigns to provide a connected, omni-channel consumer experience.

This robust omni-channel strategy connects the aforementioned industry-owned platforms under one consumer brand—Discover Boating—and aligns with boat dealers and brands through a partnership between NMMA and MRAA to deliver a more cohesive, amplified, consumer voice for recreational boating. It was an opportunity to expand and energize Discover Boating after years of industry frustration over a promising yet persistently underfunded effort.

As a result, the average $6MM-9MM annual funding from assessments on marine engines is now combined with an additional estimated $17MM investment from NMMA in 2023—thanks to an extensive portfolio of major market shows that immerse consumers in boating and lend new marketing campaigns, PR, social media and partnerships. And, that’s not all. Marketing from exhibitors, partners and programs such as Informa Markets and their investment in DBMIBS, there’s another estimated $6MM in marketing spend leveraging Discover Boating branding (download the tool kit here!) taking our collective investment to estimated $31MM. What’s more, this investment takes Discover Boating from being in market approximately 7 months out of the year to year-round. This puts Discover Boating on par with efforts from the RV sector, golf industry, and other recreation activities seeking to help more Americans get outdoors.

On the critical retention front, MRAA has been busy building robust dealer education and research to help the industry improve the customer experience at retail—a known driver of boater satisfaction and retention. Hopefully you’re one of the many record attendees at MRAA’s Dealer Week in Austin, TX this week (we’ll see you there – stop by the Discover Boating booth, #360!) If not, be sure to catch MRAA’s recaps afterward for invaluable information.

As we prepare to kick-off a New Year and new chapter for Discover Boating, cheers to the industry leaders on the NMMA board of directors and the now dissolved former Grow Boating board of directors who sought change and growth. As a result of their decision back in 2020 to bring forth a new Discover Boating strategy, recreational boating has never had a better chance at creating transformational experiences for its customers, businesses and employees.

Ellen Bradley is Chief Brand Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the National Marine Manufacturers Association.