Fishing or wakeboard tournaments. Family boating weekends. Boat demo days.

Events make good business sense for marine & boating companies. There’s no better way to introduce prospective buyers to the boating lifestyle than to get them out on the water. And there’s no better way to keep owners connected to your brand than to bring them together.

Use Boating Events to Engage Key Constituents

1) New Buyers
Getting prospective buyers into your boats and out on the water is essential to converting them. Most people wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, but wet-testing a boat is less convenient than going to a car dealership. Especially if you’re targeting customers who don’t live where you’re based, you have to take the product to them. Events like on-water demo days let prospects get up close and personal with your brand and boats.

2) Existing Owners
Don’t be surprised if existing owners show up to events geared toward new buyers; they may want to check out a new model they’re eyeballing or to simply hang out. But you should absolutely host events specifically targeted to owners. These keep owners involved, up to date on new features and models, and connected to the community surrounding the brand. Your owners are your best sales ambassadors, so make them feel part of your family.

3 Types of Events for Boating Brands

Demo Days

What’s up: A demo day is an on-water test drive, a soft-sell opportunity for people to experience the boat and ask questions without feeling committed to purchase. A demo takes boat ownership from theoretical to real—prospects have been looking at pictures and videos of your new model and now they get to ride in it.

How to make it happen: Demo days don’t require much promotional budget or staff time. Simply trailer two or three models to a marina or state park, arrange all the safety gear and set up a few banners and flags. Your sales reps do the piloting; they can turn over the wheel to guests, or not. To reach folks who don’t live in your hometown, you might consider a demo tour that covers a wider region.

How to promote: Since you’re targeting prospects who may not be in your pipeline, social media is the best channel. Start promotion a couple of months out, then increase frequency. In social messaging, tag your local owners to invite them and ask them to bring friends. Post the event on your website, and consider partnering with the event site or a local outfitter to cross-promote. Paid Facebook and Instagram campaigns, in addition to your organic promotion, also work well.

Owners Events

What’s up: When you gather your owners for a weekend of fun on the water, make sure it’s tailored to both your brand’s mission and your community’s interests. It could be competitive, like a fishing or waterskiing tournament, or as simple as a BBQ and beach cruise. Encourage folks to bring the whole family. Typically, you’ll charge for the event with an added fee for a tournament.

How to make it happen: This might be a two-day event at a marina or resort, so it’s more expensive and more complicated to host. You’ll need to arrange room blocks and catering, events for spouses/kids who aren’t in the tournament (casting clinics, games for the kids), print T-shirts and other swag. Start planning six months out and dedicate an employee to manage the event, assigning tasks as needed.

How to promote: Email marketing to your customer list is the most important channel. Use a site like Eventbrite to sell tickets and manage attendance, and use your email campaign to encourage folks to register. Create a hashtag for the event (in addition to your brand handle) for attendees to use when sharing their pictures on social media.

Sponsoring Events

What’s up: Boating and fishing organizations, marinas and resorts, and related industry brands routinely host events, and often they seek financial or in-kind sponsors. Sponsoring events increases exposure while solidifying your brand’s reputation in the minds of new and existing owners. Before committing, ask yourself if the event aligns with your brand and attracts the right people, either prospects or owners.

How it happens: You may be approached by an event manager or you can reach out to organizers. Your involvement can vary based on sponsorship packages the organizer offers, from a few product samples to a few hundred dollars to a boat. In return, you’ll gain exposure: your brand logo on T-shirts, signage, digital communication, social media and the like.

In the boating industry, events aren’t just about getting exposure. They’re about forging a deep and authentic connection to your core audience. Plus, they’re really fun.

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