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Boat sales are flat while RV retail sales are up sharply, so pressure is mounting for the boating industry to organize a national advertising campaign, similar to the RV industry’s Go RVing campaign, to encourage more people to adopt the sport of boating.
And the idea of an industrywide ad campaign now has the support of Brunswick Corp., the No. 2 producer of aluminum and fiberglass boats of all lengths. Brunswick had been an opponent of the effort under its former chairman, Peter Larson, who was fired during June 2000.
Dustan McCoy, president of the Brunswick Boat Group, admitted on Saturday (Nov. 18) that Brunswick “was part of the problem” by opposing an industrywide ad program. McCoy expressed his views during a panel discussion Saturday at the Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) Annual Convention in Las Vegas.
“Without commenting on a specific plan, my judgment is we ought to all get together to try to do something,” McCoy said. “We need to find a way to grow the industry.”
Larson opposed an industrywide ad campaign because he felt Brunswick, the largest pleasure boatbuilder in terms of unit volume at the time, would have been providing financial support to its competitors.
Meanwhile, at Genmar Corp., now the largest pleasure boatbuilder, Chairman Irwin Jacobs, was noncommittal. “I can’t, generically, say I would be in favor of anything or against anything without seeing what it’s about,” said Jacobs, who addressed the MRAA gathering Saturday by speaker phone from Minnesota.
The idea of developing a national ad campaign similar to Go RVing to promote boating’s pleasures has been under consideration for 22 years, said Larry Russo, principal of Russo Marine in Boston.
“Conceptually, it’s the right thing to do,” Russo said. “But we just can’t seem to get it done. Why should another industry successfully do it? That should be a challenge for us.”
Some of the boat dealers at the MRAA gathering said they now consider RV dealers to be more serious competition than other boat dealers in their market.
However, the boating industry has been unable to launch its own national ad campaign because of disagreements over many issues, including the method for raising money to pay for the ads, Russo said. In the RV industry, funds for the Go RVing campaign are raised through the sale of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) certification seals, which RV manufacturers attach to each new RV that they build.
Brunswick builds the Sea Ray, Bayliner, Boston Whaler and Hatteras lines of boats along with several others. It also builds Mercury and MerCruiser boat engines.
Genmar builds the Ranger, Larson, Four Winns and Wellcraft lines of boats, along with several others. Genmar does not build any boat engines.