If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then maybe the RV industry can be flattered by the recreational boating industry launching a lifestyle ad campaign with many similarities to Go RVing.

The boating industry’s five-year, $36 million federally funded campaign recently was launched by a foundation created in 1998 by Congress to expand participation in the boating and fishing.

With the slogan “Water Works Wonders,” the foundation recently spent $2.2 million on an initial series of TV, radio and magazine ads promoting the theme that recreational boating and fishing is a family-oriented pastime.

Money for the program is provided through a special federal excise tax on fishing equipment and boat fuel that typically is distributed to the states to build boat ramps, fishing piers, special projects and boating education.

Funding from such users fees is what “differentiates us from Go RVing or the marine manufacturers’ Discover Boating program,” said Kirk Gillis, communications manager for Virginia-based Boating & Fishing Foundation. “Our goal isn’t to increase the market, it is to increase participation. Are they the same? Maybe so.”

Members of the foundation’s 20-member board represent businesses and state and national government agencies and private groups.

TV ads for Water Works Wonders kicked offer during the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball tournament and will continue through the summer on FOX Sports Network’s Major League Baseball broadcasts. Print ads are appearing in such mainstream magazines as Sports Illustrated, Parade, National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Boating and Field & Stream.

“We are targeting lapsed and infrequent fishermen and boaters – people who have fished or owned a boat in the last five years, but haven’t in the last one or two,” Gillis said. “It is easier to retain a customer than it is to get a new one.”

The foundation will be the primary sponsor of National Fishing and Boating Week in early June, which will include fishing and boating events throughout the country. It also operates two Internet Web sites – waterworkswonders.org and nationalfishingandboatingweek.org.

Material also is available from the foundation to incorporate the Water Works Wonder theme in corporate or organization marketing plans, Gillis said.