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Discover Boating on the wild side

“Up to my ass in alligators” is a popular metaphor we all know isn’t taken literally. Unless, that is, you’re Joe Lewis, chairman of the industry’s Grow Boating board, and Carl Blackwell, helmsman of our Discover Boating national campaign. They have reason to see it from a different perspective.

It all began when the affable Lewis suggested Blackwell come to his marina in Mount Dora, Fla., and shoot the next “Stories of Discovery” video for the Discover Boating campaign. What tired-of-winter Chicagoan could turn down a weekend in sunny Florida, even if it meant two long days of takes and retakes?

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So Blackwell arrived with a video crew in tow to begin the project at Lewis’s marina on placid Lake Dora. The video features a Hispanic family that loves the boating lifestyle, which for them includes some time cruising the shoreline, pulling the kids on tubes, jumping off for swimming and obviously valuing the family boating time together. Yes, that’s exactly what boating is all about and it’s always a pleasure to watch it happening … even for a 9-foot alligator.

Yup, seems a gator had been hanging around the marina for a couple of months. But, then, we take gators in stride in Florida — just part of the aquatic landscape, so to speak. After all, Florida has about 1.3 million of them and they’re found in all 67 counties and there are only about a dozen attacks per year. Gators have been known to dine on just about anything, but they have a preference for turtles, fish, birds, mammals and amphibians — “not people from Chicago,” quips Lewis.

So on went the shoot, oblivious to the large reptile with only its eyes watchfully protruding from the surface nearby. “We never want to make our guests anxious,” Lewis says, “so we kinda forgot to mention the gator was here. We had called Florida Fish & Wildlife to have it removed because it had obviously lost its fear of people. And we did get him — right after the video crew left.”

The video will include segments on a 22-foot pontoon boat, action in a small aluminum bass boat, a fiberglass center console and personal watercraft. Notably, the video crew also used an octo-copter drone with a video camera mount for exciting birds-eye shots of the activities.

“The ‘Stories of Discovery’ feature real boaters telling how boating positively impacts their lives,” Lewis says. “They’re compelling and powerful and I urge every dealer to take a moment and view them. The initial three videos were launched on May 1 as part of our new 2014 marketing campaign.”

Meanwhile, Blackwell has just made two announcements. “First, there has been very positive feedback from across the industry so we’re making the videos available to download to your company’s website,” he said. “The three initial videos are now available at no charge at www.growboating.com.”  He has even arranged for individual help putting them on your website if you contact the National Marine Manufacturer Association’s Mike Perulli at mperulli@nmma.org.

Second, for the first month of release (May), Blackwell reports: “We’ve had 2 million views of our ‘Stories of Discovery,’ including on our Discover Boating website and the sites we are advertising on in our national campaign. We expect the newest video we just shot in Mount Dora to be ready for released in two languages in approximately two weeks.”

Bottom line: The industry’s Discover Boating campaign is having great success in getting the boating lifestyle message out to millions.

That victory lap taken, however, there’s still much more it could be doing, like a national cable TV campaign, if it were not hampered by funding limitations. Discover Boating is underfunded, but its value is a matter of record — meaning we are overdue for a serious effort to move the funding needle.

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