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RBFF: The ‘quiet’ promoters of boating and fishing

It’s called the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s not surprising. If you have, but you’re really not sure what it does, no surprise there either. That’s because this organization “quietly” goes about its work, calling little attention to itself while doggedly pursuing a goal of bringing more people into boating and fishing.

“We’re single-minded,” RBFF president and CEO Frank Peterson told the recent annual meeting of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association in Cleveland. “We’re focused on creating an awareness of boating and fishing that will, in turn, generate increased participation. That, ultimately, can mean sales for you.”

Perhaps you recognize www.takemefishing.org? It’s RBFF’s brand, the portal to everything. Take Me Fishing is RBFF’s national advertising campaign, designed to capture the excitement associated with boating and fishing. Behind its Internet home page are extensive programs and accomplishments ranging from direct support of our industry’s Grow Boating initiative to introducing more than one million kids to fishing each year. From listing 35,000 boat ramps and marinas across the nation to customizable marketing materials dealers can use including radio and print PSAs, Web banners, posters, photos, video, event banners and much more. And virtually all the materials are free.

Peterson’s background as a former Mobil USA retail marketing executive might explain why RBFF’s new five-year strategic plan, slated to be unveiled on April 1, will call for increased emphasis on cataloging customer experiences and stimulating more diversity in participation.

“For example,” Peterson noted, “the Hispanic segment of our population accounts for 52 million people and it will grow to 66 million by 2020. One of the goals in our new plan is to capture this demographic for the future of boating and fishing.”

“Right now there are 140 million Americans enjoying outdoor recreation,” he continued. “We want to get them interested in boating and fishing and we’re going to use every advanced media tool available to do it.”

The RBFF uses marketing, outreach and education strategies that engage three stakeholder groups — the public, the industry and state agencies. With the latter group, for example, RBFF developed a lapsed angler recruitment program that has effectively convinced millions of former anglers to get back in the game, purchase their fishing licenses and, thus, put millions of dollars back into state agency coffers used to fund everything from access construction to fish raising and management. A similar lapsed boater registration program is now under way with the promise of similar results.

What does it all mean to marine dealers? First, it’s an excellent program that complements the industry’s Discover Boating campaign. In fact, Take Me Fishing dovetails exceptionally well with Discover Boating by, for example, incorporating the industry’s Boat Selection Program, providing interactive maps of thousands of places to go boating and details on how to buy a boat.

Second, dealers can use a variety of Take Me Fishing materials and images in their own promotional efforts, thus leveraging the impact of this national consumer campaign. Every dealer should list their business on Takemefishing.org. Dealers can also list their upcoming boating and/or fishing events. Dealers can get the “Take Me Fishing Event Planning Kit” — a step-by-step guide to planning, promoting and hosting successful boating and fishing events. Dealers can also get a well-designed “Passport to Fishing & Boating Program” that provides skills, techniques and information that novices need to begin boating and fishing. For more on the materials available, go to www.takemefishing.org/corporate

RBFF’s funding comes primarily through the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (Wallop-Breaux), derived from the federal tax on gas purchased by boaters, excise taxes on fishing equipment and import duties. In essence, it spends upwards of $12 million annually to increase participation in boating and fishing. It’s worth your time to explore www.takemefishing.org.

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