EXECUTIVE DIRECTORíS CORNER
CREATING A STRONGER PRESENCE FOR SAILING AT BOAT SHOWS
By Jonathan Banks
Despite everything we read in the trade media and blogs about the demise of boat shows, the reality is that sail-only shows like the Annapolis Sailboat Show and the Strictly Sail shows, as well as those with a dedicated focus on sailing (St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show and the Newport International Boat Show), have remained strong throughout the recession and, in some cases, are even experiencing a slight resurgence.
Strictly Sail Pacific held in Oakland, CA in April, 2010, for example, was one of our strongest shows in recent years. In addition, U.S. Yacht Shows reported that its upcoming Annapolis Sailboat Show has sold out all land space, while the number of in-water boats on display is up significantly compared with last year. Strictly Sail National Show Manager Kevin Murphy reports in this issue of Sail America News that exhibitors are requesting more space at next year’s Strictly Sail Chicago show.
Sailboat shows are doing a better job at surviving the current market conditions for a few reasons.
First, sailors are very passionate about sailing and are simply not going to let an economic meltdown get in the way of participating in their favorite pastime.
Second, sailboat shows offer so much more than a “product showcase” and do a great job of promoting the sailing lifestyle while both educating and entertaining show-goers. As a result, many visitors attend multiple days.
Third, sailboat builders and equipment and accessory manufacturers have continued to innovate, giving sailors more reasons to want to attend. According to Paul Jacobs, general manager at U.S. Yacht Shows, 25 new sailboats will be debuted at the Annapolis Sailboat Show in October.
Until recently, producing boat shows was Sail America’s primary role and, over the years, we have produced some of the top sailing shows in the country, including Atlantic City Sail Expo, Strictly Sail Chicago, Strictly Sail Miami, and Strictly Sail Pacific. But, as the market changed and the role of Sail America evolved, we have consciously made the decision to shift our focus from running boat shows to supporting and endorsing select shows.
Over the past few years, Sail America has created smart partnerships with several boat show producers, including the NMMA, NCMA, and Show Management. Strictly Sail Chicago and Strictly Sail Miami are now produced by NMMA exclusively and endorsed by Sail America. Strictly Sail St. Pete was merged with the St. Petersburg Powerboat Show to create the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show, which is produced by Show Management in partnership with Sail America. Sail America continues to run Strictly Sail Pacific but works closely with the Northern California Marine Trades Association (NCMA) in this initiative.
We are also working with a number of other boat show producers, including U.S. Yacht Shows and the Newport Exhibition Group, to identify ways to increase the number of sailing exhibitors and attendees at their shows.
An important part of Sail America’s mission is to create a strong presence for sailing at boat shows; with the goal to attract more exhibitors, grow attendance, and provide added-value for exhibitors and attendees. This, in turn, helps to grow the sailing market and support our members.
Our level of involvement varies from show to show, but here are a few ways in which Sail America adds value to a show:
- Sail America Endorsement: This is a “seal of approval” that boat show producers may use to promote their shows. There are strict guidelines as to which shows Sail America will endorse.
- Promotion: Sail America aggressively promotes the endorsed show to its members and the sailing industry through newsletters, press releases, and other communication channels.
- Access to a Sailing Consumer Database: Endorsed shows have access to Sail America’s database of over 50,000 sailing enthusiasts. One of Sail America’s goals going forward is to develop the most comprehensive list of sailors and sailing prospects available.
- Seminars: Sail America has the expertise and resources to run comprehensive seminar programs at the endorsed shows. Seminars are a great way to drive traffic to shows and provide added value to attendees.
- Discover Sailing: Discover Sailing provides newcomers to sailing the opportunity to go for a free 45-minute sail. Discover Sailing helps bring new people to the show and provides added-value to attendees. Either Sail America runs Discover Sailing at the show, or the show or a local group are given the tools to run their own program.
- Marketing: Sail America helps create marketing plans to attract high-quality sailing enthusiasts to the show. Sail America also works closely with show producers to negotiate competitive ad rates and identify and secure potential sponsors.
- Sales: In some cases, Sail America will sell sailing-related space at shows.
- Collective Voice: Sail America acts as the collective voice of sailing exhibitors to identify ways to improve the show. Sail America also participates in show committee meetings and, if necessary, will establish task forces to organize sailing features and events at the show.
This new boat show strategy allows Sail America to be involved in more shows than ever, while helping to improve the quality of the endorsed shows.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are aware of any show that would benefit from Sail America’s involvement, or if you have other feedback to share.