It might not be by design, but during the last few years it seems like the NMMA’s Tampa Boat Show has become the event where new ideas are paraded out to gauge public response. And last weekend was no exception.
For one, MarineMax rolled out an exciting new boating lifestyle theater in its main exhibit inside the Tampa Convention Center (there was also a large MarineMax in-water presence at the show.) The theater concept was developed by David K. Witty, the vice president of event marketing and retail merchandising at the corporation’s Clearwater headquarters.
“This is one way we’re implementing [MarineMax chairman] Bill McGill’s desire to see expanded promotion of the boating lifestyle message,” Witty says. “Moreover, it’s an extension of our recently opened boating lifestyle center in Tampa’s prestigious International Plaza Mall. There, we have very limited product on display because its primarily designed and devoted to featuring the boating lifestyle by using multiple big video screens, exciting graphics and having people manning it who are avid boaters, wakeboarders, skiers and enthusiastic boating spokespersons to talk with the visitors,” he added.
The theater in the boat show boasted a big screen, comfortable seating, super-sharp projection and great sound. It was centered in the exhibit, surrounded by a wide variety of boat models. But it’s the way Witty has programmed the theater that is also notable. While he uses some of the best boating and fishing video from the national Discover Boating campaign, like the award-winning “Good Run,” he has also incorporated select video from the manufacturers MarineMax represents — and it’s all available on demand.
The theater is already “loaded” with video on most of the models sold by MarineMax. If a prospect at the show, for example, wants to see a model that’s not on display, good video of that boat has already been loaded and can be cued up in the theater on demand.
“We’re very pleased with the response to the theater by visitors here at the show,” Witty says. “And, for that matter, our new boating center at International Plaza is also getting a lot of attention,” he added. In fact, Witty noted that in addition to the prospect of adding similar boating centers at other malls in key markets, he also now expects the new lifestyle theater to be included at key boat shows next winter.
The Tampa Boat Show, which had taken a big hit in exhibits and attendance in 2008 and 2009 has come roaring back in the last three years. Show manager Larry Berryman has rebuilt the in-water portion of the event into a big show by itself, complete with an exclusive VIP Preview Night on the docks the evening prior to the show’s opening. Coupled with the hundreds of boats and exhibits again inside the adjacent Tampa Convention Center, the event appears to have reclaimed its spot as the big show on Florida’s west coast.