Diversity Takes Center Stage at RBFF State Marketing Workshop

Just before 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 28, 2023 Risha Grant stepped onto a podium in the Royal Sonesta hotel on the outskirts of Houston. Within seconds, the former collegiate basketball player, clad in a sleek leather jacket, gripped the attention of a ballroom filled with officials from state fish and wildlife agencies across the nation. For about an hour, the Oklahoma native described a captivating story of childhood in rural America, family experiences outdoors and the importance of inclusiveness in a sport historically represented by a single demographic.


The message—one that resonated throughout the day with speakers from marketing expert Allison Bolger, from ad agency Colle McVoy to Iowa Department of Natural Resources official Shannon Hafner—was clear: the future growth of sportfishing flows through women and people of color. Combined they represent more than $3 trillion in disposable income. Per capita, each new woman angler represents an average of $1,000 in earnings for tackle dealers and manufacturers. And though growth has been substantial in the past decades, those anglers remain significantly untapped.


Grant, an internationally renowned diversity, inclusion and bias expert and author of the soon-to-be-released book Be Better Than Your BS” suggested being completely transparent & intentional” when approaching BIPOC people to connect and collaborate with your company. Without transparency, people of color dont feel comfortable or safe.” She also said that the price of inclusion is cheaper than the price of exclusion.


Bolger, whose portfolio includes well-known brands like Google, Walmart, Nestle and Nissan, said research indicates that mothers plan most family activities in the United States. “Women are the gateway to participation of children entering the sport of fishing, along with most outdoor recreational activities,” she said.


Across the room, state officials from California to Rhode Island listened, submitted feedback via smartphones and brought home pages of notes fueled by caffeine and a hearty breakfast.


"This truly is one of my most favorite conferences throughout my whole career because it brings together the issues that the state agencies need to be dealing with on a day-to-day basis and creates synergy with a profession (marketing and communications) that we in the state agencies don't typically have in our repetoire," said Debbie Beyer, Minnesota DNR Divison of Fish & Wildlife Outreach Section Manager.


“I think one of the greatest takeaways from the workshop so far is the importance of understanding the amount of effort that goes into retaining and inviting people into the boating lifestyle is a year-round effort,” said Freya Olsen, Director of Industry Relations for the National Marine Manufacturer Association. “It’s being undertaken by not just the manufacturer, not just the retailer but the state agencies, the repair folks and all moving parts of the industry.”


Hosted annually by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, the RBFF State Marketing Workshop themed Fostering Lifelong Participation Together in 2023, is designed to help state agencies better understand and reach consumers in the marketplace. By bringing an audience of leading decision makers to a single location and delivering the latest insights from marketing experts and insight organizations, the goal is to get more Americans out on the water and to help government agencies better serve their communities within each state.


The conference ran for parts of three days, from February 27 to March 1, 2023. The insights continued during the last day of the Workshop as speakers tackled marketing trends on TikTok, fishing and boating retention research, R3 planning, creating partnerships and more.   


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