Need to capitalize on public fascination with sailing

Paul Warren leverages the boating lifestyle to sell products, recognizing the public’s fascination with being on the water. Regarding the business of growing the sport/industry of sailing, Paul offers a few marketing observations…

The visual appeal of sailing is not lost on mainstream advertising. Ad campaigns frequently utilize a wide variety of sailboats – small daysailers, beach cats, larger sloops/yachts and more – as backgrounds/settings for numerous TV/Web commercials and print advertising.

They present their clients’ drug/pharma products, financial/insurance services, automobiles, colognes, and many more different product categories in a sailing environment. These advertisers who recognize the commercial power of sailing are not ‘small potatoes’ either: Pacific Life, Viagra, Geico, and Chrysler.

The mood set in ad campaigns is relaxation, fun, financial security to afford the sailing/boating lifestyle, and other most-appealing states-of-mind. All these are attributes that likely attracted most of us to boating as well.

The visual appeal of sailing is not lost on retailers either. When you go into Best Buy, h.h. gregg, and Office Depot, sailboat photos or videos can be seen displayed on TV and computer screens. The multi-colored sails demonstrate the pixel power of these electronics. The deep blue waters – blue being a ‘soothing color’ that sets a calm mental state – help make that big buying decision for the newest 80-inch screen or home theatre system.

These marketing decisions to use sailing imagery are not just coincidental. Sailing sells products because people identify with the desire to go sailing, the idea of ‘sailing off into the sunset.’ The commercial world has long recognized the selling power of boats in general, and sailboats in particular. Sailing is a lifestyle that people aspire to. It’s a pastime that’s viewed as soothing, romantic, fun, economical (no major fuel bills), and – yes – maybe a little physical for the health-conscious.

Unfortunately, the sailing industry has not, for the most part in my view, captured the potential to attract new sailors based on lifestyle and the more desirable aspects of our sport. While boat manufacturers must continue to market to sailing enthusiasts, they also need to step beyond the ‘choir’. How often do you see boating ads in Oprah, the city magazines in major sailing centers, or on the most popular consumer/entertainment websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn (strong demographics) or This type of marketing will bring new blood into our sport.

When marine marketers get it right, they are rewarded for their ‘bold’ thinking. An example is Beneteau, which reacted to market research data that consumers (mainly women) were positive about buying a sailboat when it offered greater interior spaces and a higher level of interior design/styling. In the late 80s, Beneteau brought in French designer Philippe Stark who introduced ultra-modern, ultra-chic interiors for the company’s ‘First’ series of boats. The Stark designs were an instant hit in the marketplace and generated lots of buzz for the company … which sold a lot of boats. But, these market successes had to do with product design, not necessarily how the product was marketed to the public.

The sailing/marine industry in general – and marine marketing executives in particular – need to ‘kick things up a notch’ and broaden their horizons and appeal to the vast number of non-sailors who are, actually, ‘wanna-be’ sailors. Let’s capitalize on a steady bedrock of public fascination with our sport and have thousands of new folks saying “I’d Rather Be Sailing!”


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