When I began my term as the new Chairman of RBFF at the end of 2019, I looked forward to working with a strong team that already had produced a very successful year and were on course for yet another. Fishing participation is up. Boat re-registrations are up. And consumer engagement among key market segments of women and Hispanics is at record highs. Our state partners are seeing a surge in license and registration sales from RBFF-generated referrals, and they turned out in unprecedented numbers for our annual marketing workshop. Industry stakeholders’ satisfaction with RBFF is higher than ever, and our relatively new partnerships with federal agencies already are engaging anglers in new ways.
So yes, when I came on board as Chairman, the sky was clear, the waters calm. And then the coronavirus pandemic arrived, and we all moved into challenging, uncharted waters.
The good news was that RBFF’s strong FY20 proved our marketing is doing a great job connecting consumers with boating and fishing, and that our activities and strategies are working effectively with partners. More good news: not only are RBFF’s operations solid, but its funding for FY21 is in place.
Perhaps the most powerful asset we have going for us, though, is the unique nature of our sports. Boating and fishing are safe, great activities for enjoying family, friends, and the outdoors. They are sports that don’t need a crowd, that allow you to choose your companions and easily manage social distancing. The fact is, boating and fishing are ideal for enjoying the “staycations” many of us will be taking.
So when the nation’s shutdowns began, RBFF already had the talent, record, relationships, funding, and confidence to quickly adapt our strategy and campaign message to address the 'new normal'. We were fully prepared to act on our obligation to our mission, stakeholders, and conservation to prime the pump of participation — to engage consumers — at this unique moment in history, and we did.
I truly believe that recovery may in fact present new opportunities for boating and fishing, possibly a chance to gain market share. Know that RBFF will make the most of those opportunities. As more and more Americans give fresh thought to their preferred recreational activities, we’ll help them discover — or rediscover — the sports we love and the joys of a day on the water.