Manage the message to grow sailing

Published on February 5th, 2015

Tireless sailing promoter Glenn McCarthy provides this PSA from his station in Chicago…

Translate this:
• 90% of boats sold are 26 feet in length or less.
• 75% of boats are owned in households with family income under $100,000.
• About 1 out of 26 people own a boat (clearly not the one percenters).

To:
• A “remote” on the morning news during the 2015 Chicago Boat, RV and Strictly Sail Chicago Show: Frank Mathie, ABC Channel 7, did a piece showing both power and sailboats. When it came to sailboats, he only described two. Both were large keelboats, one for sale at $375,000 and another at $969,000.

I think it would have been much easier to have the remote piece say, “Do not come to this show, it isn’t for the general public. There is nothing here for you. Everything here is way out of the price range for people watching this looking for something to do this weekend.”

Why? Because that is the message Mathie presented.

Could the report have been focused on the 26’ length or less boating segment? Yes. Those boats were there. Could it have been targeted to the households with income under $100,000? Yes. That could have been explained. But it was not.

Do those who are interested in buying a $375,000 or $969,000 boat need a reminder that the 2015 Chicago Boat, RV and Strictly Sail Chicago Show was going on? No, they already are sailors, they already knew the show was happening. This reminder was wasted on them.

We in the sport of sailing and marketing sailing and sailboat racing miss the target. We miss getting the message out that sailing is for the middle class. It is so rare that we get the chance and we blow it.

Twenty-plus years ago this same exact thing happened at Strictly Sail Chicago. I wrote an opinion piece that was published in Soundings–Trade Only (industry magazine). The day it was published, my phone lines were burning with calls from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (they had/have a training program to avoid advertising the most costly boat at shows and focus on the small boats, that obviously didn’t happen here, again).

As long as we (the entire industry and sailors) do not set the stage, do not get the right message into the media’s hands, it is completely our fault that both small boat and big boat sales struggle. Why? Because we need tons and tons of people buying small boats, who eventually get one-foot-itis, who eventually move up to the big boats. Selling big boats only to people who don’t sail is a rarity. Big boats are sold to people who already sail and are moving up in size.

A boat show needs to be about getting boats into the hands of the masses. But we just simply fail at getting this message across. We need to stop doing this. I can’t keep buying new TVs after I throw my shoe (size 13) at them every time it happens!

Source: Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation

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