Earlier this year, the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and the Outdoor Foundation released the 2021 Special Report on Fishing revealing 55 million Americans went fishing last year.
Now the Bureau of Economic Analysis has announced the outdoor recreation sector generated $689 billion in economic output with boating and fishing contributing $30.8 billion in current-dollar value added—the largest amongst conventional outdoor recreation activities.
But how did the boating and fishing industry achieve such resiliency, strength, and participation growth? A mix of preparation, collaboration, and opportunity.
Rising to the Challenge of 2020
In late April 2020, RBFF and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) announced the Get On Board campaign, an industry-wide initiative to share the restorative power of recreational boating and fishing and help the industry recover.
As RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson said, “Boating and fishing offer a way to cope with our new reality—being outdoors, spending time with those closest to you, and doing so safely.”
Joining forces with the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA), the integrated campaign included a public service announcement, online advertising, social media outreach, and a public relations strategy to encourage Americans to “Get On Board” and experience the fun, adventure, mental benefits, and challenge provided by boating and fishing. A free, customizable toolkit was provided to all industry stakeholders to help amplify the message that #TheWaterIsOpen.
Dr. Sue Varma, a nationally-recognized psychiatrist, partnered with RBFF’s Take Me Fishing to educate Americans on the wellness benefits of fishing: “Fishing in particular encourages mindfulness by helping you get away from distractions, it supports mastery by teaching a new skill, it provides meaningful engagement through quality time with others you may be quarantining with, and it promotes physical movement by getting you outside without requiring strenuous workout.”
In 2020, Get On Board generated 1.8 billion impressions and averaged a 107% increase year-over-year in traffic on Discover Boating and Take Me Fishing digital assets. Over 200 industry members joined the campaign in under two months.
As a result of RBFF and its partners’ efforts, fishing participation in 2020 reached historic levels of participation across key demographics including Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and women.
Expanding & Growing in 2021
The award-winning campaign was so successful that it was extended into 2021, supplying the industry with a variety of free, customizable tools to support customer growth and retention efforts and reinvigorating recruitment, retention, and reactivation efforts.
With health clubs, sports leagues, summer camps and more restricted due to COVID-19, the campaign centered around America’s wellness deficit. Dr. Jessica Clemons, “the internet’s favorite psychiatrist” joined the effort to encourage Americans to prioritize their wellness and practice self-care:
“Exploring new wellness-sustaining activities like fishing and boating is a great way to refill the wellness deficit you may be in … Learning new skills promotes a sense of accomplishment and getting out of your routine can help you get in touch with your friends, your family, and yourself”.
New partnerships expanded Get On Board’s reach to a wider audience: King Keraun and Complex spotlighted the Take Me Fishing x Bricks & Wood capsule collection, Hearst highlighted “Stories of Anglers”, and Buzzfeed featured short-form videos. In 2021, the initiative achieved even greater results, generating 3.4 billion impressions—a 42% year-over-year increase.
“Over the last few years, RBFF, NMMA, and MRAA have been priming the pump, reaching out to diverse new audiences to increase awareness of fishing and boating and inspire participation,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, SVP of Marketing and Communication for RBFF. “This year’s Get On Board campaign featured some of our most successful multicultural outreach to date.”