As part of Sail America’s ongoing Industry Segment Focus Group initiative, Carl Blackwell of the NMMA and I jointly hosted an event with the “Sailing Media” category during Strictly Sail Chicago. This event proved to be a very dynamic roundtable discussion and addressed a variety of critical topics.
The goals for this informal listening session were to provide an opportunity for the sailing media to learn from one another; discuss opportunities and challenges facing the media segment; open the lines of communication between Sail America and the sailing media to understand how we can better serve this niche; and, finally, to address how collectively we can grow the sailing market.
This was a lively discussion involving nine members of the sailing media, and one that generated informative and provocative dialog. Most participants reported that advertising revenues took a hit during the recession, due largely to the state of the economy and the significant decline in boat builders’ ad budgets. The good news, however, is that some media brands reported an increase in revenues in 2010 and most are predicting ad spend will rise in 2011.
The group also agreed that demand for print media advertising remains strong for enthusiast publications, and while readership numbers have been down, it seems to have stabilized. Other factors noted by the group of media experts included the aging of our sailing demographic, a shift toward online advertising, and the challenge to educate advertisers about the various communication channels and options.
In terms of future trends, the impact the Internet has had on traditional print publications generated much discussion, with diverse opinions in the group about its impact. Unquestionably, advertisers are seeking more efficient ways to market but the challenge is how to educate them on the most appropriate channels to use. Most agreed these are exciting times in the world of media, with marketers having access to a wider variety of communications channels than ever before. The ultimate media winners will be those that can offer content delivery on different platforms.
When it comes to how to grow the industry, all agreed that increased participation and getting more “butts in boats” is the goal. Some believe that the America’s Cup will help expose sailing to a broader audience, while others believe there needs to be a greater focus on collegiate sailing and in retaining college participants post graduation. All agreed that there must be a cohesive effort to target the younger demographic and to create marketable personalities that will allow us to glamorize the sport. In addition, there was serious discussion about the need for the industry to change its business model, with less dependency on sales of large boats. Perhaps a lesson can be learned from the automotive industry that has reduced its dependency on selling large trucks and SUVs towards a new model focused on sales of small economical cars and hybrids.
The media focus group also had a lengthy discussion about Sail America’s role moving forward, including recommending developing a new consumer website, the suggestion of a learn-to-sail month, an industry focus on youth initiatives, and an expanded Discover Sailing program. The question of sponsorships and attracting money from outside the industry remains a hot topic of discussion and debate.
The media participants also told us that Sail America can better serve its needs by providing ongoing education and research, and analyzing what sailing is doing successfully in other parts of the world. The media expressed interest in playing a bigger role at boat shows and also encouraged Sail America to establish regional grass roots sailing industry programs similar to the San Francisco Bay Area Sailing Renaissance initiative.
I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this segment focus group study and feel we all walked away having learned more about the challenges and opportunities facing the sailing media as well as how we can work together with greater synergies.
This issue of Waypoints focuses in on changing strategies in the media landscape. I hope you’ll find the content beneficial as you analyze your own media plans and advertising buys.