Creating a Groundswell

Annual Report 2019

The recreational boating and fishing community began a coordinated effort in RBFF’s Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), to raise overall participation in fishing to 60 million anglers in 60 months, 60 in 60.

In FY19, a surge in stakeholders’ commitment to Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) initiatives created new groundswells of participation, and began propelling us to higher levels of Achievement Ahead.

The R3 Ripple Effect

  • R3 programs have been strengthened and expanded.
  • State and industry stakeholders are advancing R3 initiatives more widely.
  • Federal agencies, another key R3 partner, have come on board.

Today, the combination of RBFF’s recruitment efforts and stakeholders’ commitment – the engine for increasing participation and reducing churn — is more powerful than ever, heading us towards our shared goal of 60 in 60 by December 2021.

Jeff Marble
From RBFF Board Chairman
Jeff Marble
President, Marble, LLC

The recreational boating and fishing community is now well into the open waters of 60 in 60. Appropriately so, our attention is forward. All of us are focused on how we are increasing participation through recruitment, retention and reactivation of anglers and boaters to get to our destination. You’re about to learn from this report how RBFF and stakeholders moved towards this goal in FY19, and what the year’s developments hold for the future.

But before we go there, I’d like to note that this year marks RBFF’s 20th anniversary. Yes, twenty years of working to increase participation.

It’s a big deal. So let’s take a moment to look back — at where we’ve been.

RBFF started out at a time when fishing and boating participation was headed down and dipping deeper. It was up to RBFF to rally stakeholders and together come to the rescue. And that’s what all of us did.

RBFF began allying with some of America’s biggest brands and successfully partnering with almost every state in our union. It set the hook for increased participation with the creation of its award-winning Take Me Fishing brand and website, innovative digital tools, and targeted outreach strategies.

Together with state and industry stakeholders, RBFF has made progress, bringing fishing and boating participation to where we are today. Fishing participation is up 20% in the last 10 years. Boating participation is up to 36% of the U.S. population, with fishing the number one activity done from a boat. We’re on course to continue taking participation to much-needed higher levels — even as participation suffers from churn and technology competes for Americans’ leisure time.

In fact, we have a long way to go, the reason RBFF’s work is as vital as ever. RBFF is developing new R3 tools, ideas and campaigns — that research confirms are working. And it’s continuing to help stakeholders build their R3 skills and learn from each other’s programs.

RBFF has just charted its course for the next three years with the FY20-22 Strategic Plan, developed and adopted in FY19. Thanks to the plan, we all know where we’re going. So let’s pause to give RBFF’s success to-date a nod … and now, press on ahead.

Message From
Frank Peterson
RBFF President and CEO
of Participation
FY19 Highlights

This year, participation in boating and fishing grew — as did stakeholders’ participation in efforts to Recruit, Retain and Reactivate (R3) anglers.

At 49.4 million, angler participation is slightly ahead of forecasts in the Special Report on Fishing, which was created in partnership with The Outdoor Foundation.

4 9 . 4 M Fishing Up from 49.1 M

Boating participation also remains strong.

1 4 2 M As of 2016, with new research set to be conducted in FY20 7 t h consecutive year of growth in recreational boating industry

Stakeholder satisfaction is at record highs.

U p 3 % State Partners Satisfaction Remains High, to 75% 7 7 % Industry Partners Satisfaction
Stakeholder satisfaction based on those who have use two or more products in the past 12 months.
of Interest

A major, award-winning campaign that inspires women to try boating and fishing — combined with ongoing campaigns that reach out to families, youth and Hispanics — helped drive overall fishing participation up for the 4th straight year.

Females are half the population, yet historically are only a fraction of boaters and anglers. RBFF’s consumer marketing campaign, Women Making Waves, dived in to meet this challenge, and already is delivering results. In its first full year, the campaign attracted over 600,000 new fishing participants.

1 7 . 7 M Female Anglers

Up from 17.1M

Outreach to youth age 13-17 increased teens’ participation as well. Teens who tried fishing for the first time represented 9.5% of all newcomers — vs. 4.9% 5 years ago, almost double the share.

1 1 . 7 M Youth Ages 6-17

Up 7.3% since 2016

Consumer marketing to Hispanics also increased participation. 17.2% of all newcomers to fishing were Hispanic (vs. 8.9% 4 years ago), and 12.2% of all anglers who returned to fishing were Hispanic (vs. 5.5% 4 years ago).

4 . 4 M Hispanic Anglers

3-yr. increase 5.5%

Look who's giving fishing a try
Of all newcomers to fishing
43.6% are women
44% are youth age 6-17
12.2% are Hispanic
Take Me Fishing campaigns were implemented across several media platforms.

Campaigns included targeted videos and also “how-to” videos in both English and Spanish. Videos combined to earn 3 million views on RBFF’s YouTube channel.

PR and Social Media

Public relations and social media campaigns hauled in more than a billion impressions.

3 , 0 0 0 + stories
1 . 3 B impressions
8 % increase in social following
$ 2 . 9 million in publicity value

Riding the Digital Wave

Across consumer outreach initiatives, visits to digital assets reached new levels, including visits to the website, which featured new and optimized content.

15.4M total visits to digital assets
Up 100% Website visits via social media traffic
Up 20% Website return visitors
Up 52% Website visits via email links

At least as important as the amount of consumer exposure to Take Me Fishing outreach is the impact of that exposure.

According to studies, overall consumer intention to go boating or fishing grew along with brand and messaging awareness. This is especially true for our prime consumer target, the Family Outdoors segment, which also happens to be the most social-savvy audience segment. The Family Outdoors segment saw the biggest gains in brand awareness and intention to act on our messaging.

Family Outdoors Group
5 1 % Brand Awareness

Up from 43% in 2017

8 9 % Intent to fish within next 12 months

(Compared to 56% intention of those unfamiliar with Take Me Fishing brand)

8 0 % Intent to boat within next 12 months
Consumer campaign close-up
The future of fishing is female.

The Women Making Waves campaign, launched this year, made an immediate splash. Ads, videos and social media campaigns helped women see themselves as rod-and-reel wielding captains of their own boats, whether serving as role models for future generations of anglers and boaters or pushing off from shore on their own.

After watching the #MakingWaves videos, well over half of women viewers indicated they were “much more” or “somewhat more” inclined to fish in the next 12 months.

Even this year’s Top Places to Fish and Boat social media campaign was recast to speak directly to women, renamed the Top Mom-Approved Places to Fish and Boat. Celebrity Alexa PenaVega announced the winners in both English and Spanish-language interviews.

First place. The entire Women Making Waves initiative caught the attention of top marketing and marine professionals. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) honored Women Making Waves with its 2019 Gold Circle Award in both Media/Public Relations Campaign and Video categories. Globaltrend awarded the Women Making Waves video first place in both its nonprofit and nature/wildlife categories. And the Marine Marketers of America’s 2018 Neptune Awards for marine marketing excellence named Women Making Waves the year’s Best Diversity Initiative.

Other awards. RBFF’S and websites won “Award of Excellence” honors in the 24th Annual Communicator Awards competition, and RBFF’s PR campaigns, including #FirstCatch, received the Marketing to Youth award from SABRE.

Consumer campaign close-up
Disney again connects.

RBFF’s ongoing alliance with the Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Media Networks continued its magic, increasing consumer brand awareness and encouraging families to enjoy boating and fishing. A recent study conducted by the firm Kantar Millward Brown confirmed that Disney’s Take Me Fishing-branded on-site boating and fishing experiences, along with branded messaging on Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Disney Interactive, continue to engage a diverse audience and get our message across. In fact, all campaign elements outperformed the firm’s norms in terms of likeability, relevancy and believability. Thanks to the campaign, families are realizing that boating and fishing are fun, are not too expensive nor difficult to do, are a great way to spend time together … and are activities they’d like to try.

3 3 . 7 7 M

advertising impressions

2 M

video viewers

5 6 1 , 0 0 0

social media Influencer reach

Other consumer campaigns…

RBFF reached out to youth with the Wild Child video.

First Catch Centers, an initiative being piloted with USFWS, is set to be expanded.

70+ events

reached 5,200 people

Outreach to Hispanics included new programs funded by the George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar™ Education Fund grants, and Spanish-language versions of pages, social media campaigns and videos.

State Partners

Groundswell in R3 Progress

State partners devoted more time, attention and resources to R3 than ever before, as they developed R3 plans, implemented innovative programs, and shared the details of their programs’ success.

State R3 activities nationwide
Across the country, effective R3 marketing techniques helped state agencies increase participation and earn added revenue for their conservation programs.

Boat Registration Reactivation Program

2018 State R3 Program Grants Partnerships, 2018 implementation

Matching funds for the 2019 George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar Education Fund™ grants


States attending the 2018 RBFF State Marketing Workshop (not DC, ND or SD)

Helping state partners do more

RBFF worked with state agencies, helping them implement the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ (AFWA) five Angler R3 Task Force recommendations:

  1. Develop an Angler R3 Plan.
  2. Reallocate agency resources to ensure R3 success.
  3. Establish a full-time Angler R3 Manager.
  4. Develop a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
  5. Establish a repository for state agencies to share R3 program learnings.

State Agency Satisfaction with RBFF is 75%.

Supporting state partners’ R3 programs

In FY19, state partners joined RBFF’s growing list of more than two dozen RBFF R3 “success stories.” Here are just three examples:

Idaho Department Fish & Game (IDFG)

  • Expanded its R3 marketing team to 3 full-time employees and a social media intern.
  • Successfully implemented its "Price Lock" campaign to reduce churn, reach millenials, raise its brand profile as a conservation leader, and partner with other states, NGOs and industry partners.
  • Began to create new revenue for agency activities.

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (MassWildlife)

  • Tested new tracking techniques to measure the cost-effectiveness of their communications.
  • Led to increased emphasis on digital marketing to reach customers and drive license sales.
  • Brought in $360,000 in revenue for Mass Wildlife.

Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources

  • Sent 150,000 emails to anglers who purchased a fishing license in the previous five years but not the current year.
  • Open rate was a whopping 30%, click throughs and conversion rate an impressive 3%.
  • 7,200 licenses sold, $218,000 revenue generated.
New state R3 programs are well underway across the country

State partners are developing R3 plans

(50% more than last year)

States have State Angler R3 Coordinators on staff

(57% more than last year)

States are conducting Search Engine Marketing.


States have simplified their license offerings.

… and others are just getting started, fueled by grants.

Growing state partners’ R3 skills ...

State Marketing Workshop. A record number of attendees, including more agency directors than ever, gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to take part in sessions covering R3 planning, marketing and community outreach, license system optimization, and R3 research insights. Attendees also learned about R3 activities in other states, and about RBFF’s own major marketing initiatives — including Women Making Waves outreach to female boaters and anglers.

1 6 4

Total Attendees

4 8


1 2 4

State Agency Attendees

2 4

State Agency Directors and/or Deputy Directors

Quarterly webinars updated state agency staff on RBFF’s new marketing efforts, state R3 case studies, grant proposal writing, and how to measure marketing efforts.

R3 training. We partnered with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports (CAHSS) and Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) to host its first pilot R3 training in Shepherdstown, WV. Representatives from 30 state agencies, Guam, federal agencies and NGOs focused on R3 consumer trends, marketing tools, strategies and techniques, program development and program evaluation to increase participation in fishing and boating.

Leading initiatives that increase state revenues

RBFF’s Boat Registration Reactivation Program

  • 19 states participated
  • More than 600,000 letters sent to owners of lapsed boats
  • Produced more than 50,000 boat registrations
  • $1.9 million in revenue

Since 2012, this program, solely funded by RBFF, has generated $12 million for states.

Referrals from and other digital assets to state license and registration purchase website pages:

  • 744,700 referrals to state agency fishing license systems, up 16.84%.
  • 102,000 referrals to state boat registration systems.
Industry Partners

Groundswell in R3 Engagement

This year, more retail, manufacturing and media partners began to come on board with R3, supporting activities designed to reach their customers, increase participation and grow their business.

Stakeholders recognize:

A rising tide of participation raises the entire U.S. economy.

Outdoor recreation

  • Accounted for 2.2% of the GDP
    • $734 B in output
    • 4.55 M direct jobs
    • $887 B in consumer spending
  • Grew by 3.8% in 2016 vs. 2.8% of the overall economy

Boating and fishing

  • Accounted for 5% of all outdoor recreation economic activity
  • Were the second greatest factor in the outdoor sector

35.8 million anglers over age 15 spent $49.8 billion on fishing gear and trips (2016)

Within the recreational boating industry, U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services were estimated at $41B in 2018, an increase of 7%.

Industry partners’ engagement in R3 means more power for achieving 60 in 60.

Industry satisfaction with RBFF activities reached 77%.

A new, free tool connects stakeholders, their customers, and a day on the water.

RBFF’s new Fishing License & Boat Registration Website Plugin eases the way for customers’ participation in boating and fishing. The plugin appears on a stakeholder’s website. When customers land on the website, they select the state they want to boat or fish in from the plugin’s map or dropdown menu. They’re immediately transported to the state’s page to complete their purchase, get outside, and enjoy the products, services and guidance the stakeholder provides.

  • The plugin is already on 24 organizations’ websites.
  • Placement is simple: the single line of code that needs to be inserted in the website is posted for quick downloading on RBFF’s corporate site.
  • In its first month, the plugin reeled in 112,000 hits — resulting in more than 5,500 fishing license and boat registration referrals.
And customers appreciate it.

Daiwa shared the tool on their social media channel and got a boatload of customer comments.

"This is awesome!"
"Nicely done!"
New alliances as big as the great outdoors.

RBFF began taking a wider view of industry alliances, forming ties with organizations united by the broad common goal of championing the outdoors, where boating and fishing are dominant gateway activities. Great Outdoors Month is one of those alliances, a consortium of public and private partners that encouraged Americans during the month of June to #EscapeTheIndoors.

RBFF also expanded its trade media partnerships. It worked with Fishing Tackle Retailer and Angling International to gain more support within the industry.

The ongoing partnership with Fishbrain brought robust features to RBFF’s popular Places to Fish & Boat Map, including a new marker for multiple places of interest, an improved forecast tool, additional map styles and overall better performance.

New research studies contributed to industry partners’ own marketing strategies.

A High School Fishing Club Survey highlighted opportunities for building brand loyalty among future anglers by sponsoring existing clubs, as well as for creating future mentors and equipment sales by encouraging new clubs.

And the 2018 Special Report on Fishing examined participation by type of fishing, geographic area and demographic groups, and detailed the challenge of churn.

Industry continued its support for

The George H.W. Bush Foundation Vamos A Pescar™ Education Fund. Initiated by Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris, Education Fund received industry funding for 15 programs in FY19, and will make possible 12 programs this coming year.

RBFF’s State Marketing Workshop. This year’s workshop attracted a record number of sponsors.

...And at the Miami International Boat Show and ICAST, RBFF showcased its Women Making Waves initiatives and introduced the campaign’s women influencers, who rocked the boat with on-the-scene reports.

Federal Agencies

Groundswell in Federal Cooperation

The entire recreational fishing and boating community have a new, important ally in increasing participation and reaching our goal of 60 in 60.

Federal partners signed on to help promote recreational fishing and boating on public waterways.

The National Park Service joined a Memorandum of Understanding previously signed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the American Sportfishing Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association — and RBFF.

The MOU commits support for projects and activities that promote recreational fishing and boating conducted on public lands and waterways.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed a new and separate Memorandum of Agreement with a consortium led by RBFF. The Agreement seeks to further projects and activities that promote sustainable recreational fishing and boating conducted within federal marine waters, including national marine sanctuaries.


Groundswell in Awareness

A new study confirms that through RBFF’s award-winning PSAs and information on, consumers increasingly understand the link between fishing licenses and conservation.

RBFF PSAs helped the public make the connection between fishing license purchases and projects that protect waterways.

PSAs aired often
worth of TV, print, and radio placements

The Telepathy PSA
Ranked in the top 1% by Nielsen Media Research of all PSA placements.
102 customized versions of :60 and :30 spots were produced for individual states and DC.

A recent Conservation Study explored public awareness of the fishing license-conservation connection.

  • Anglers registered a heightened awareness of the link between fishing licenses and conservation (76% of respondents).
  • Awareness among RBFF’s prime audience, the Family Outdoors Segment, rose significantly.
  • 9 out of 10 respondents like the link between licenses and conservation.

The Groundswell Continues

From RBFF’s award-winning consumer recruitment campaigns and alliances to innovative state programs and industry collaborations, new R3 initiatives continue to launch and develop — fueling the recreational boating and fishing community’s onward journey to 60 in 60.

Ahead, RBFF’s new FY20-22 Strategic Plan will be implemented. In the plan are provisions that take existing initiatives further. These include expanding corporate and non-profit alliances with “non-endemic” partners whose focus is not strictly within recreational boating and fishing. Many of these organizations are in the same boat as RBFF, concerned about participation. By allying with them, RBFF can grow awareness and enthusiasm for boating and fishing.

The Strategic Plan also addresses our latest sector of partners: federal agencies. It calls for acting on the memoranda of understanding signed with federal partners by creating messaging materials and providing support for boating and fishing areas on federal property, including the establishment of First Catch Centers.

Other upcoming initiatives include

Off the Hook. Traveling to local spots across the country, this pop-up experience will introduce families to fishing with introductory equipment and experiences.

Broadening our multicultural consumer engagement. RBFF will take a more holistic approach to attracting our nation’s diverse population to boating and fishing.

Further developing the Take Me Fishing skill on Amazon Alexa to guide and inform boaters and anglers, strengthening RBFF’s position as a leader in the industry to embrace voice technology — and use it as a hook to increase participation.

All of the activities and accomplishments RBFF has reported for this year and the future are consistent with Our Mission, Vision and Goals. The FY19 Financial Report details the operational investments required to make these activities and accomplishments possible.


To implement an informed, consensus-based national outreach strategy that will increase participation in recreational angling and boating, and thereby increase public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore the nation’s aquatic natural resources.


RBFF is committed to spreading the joy of fishing and boating to all ages, genders and cultures. We envision one nation united in our passion for fishing and boating, a nation committed to the pursuit of leisure activity on the water, a nation that embraces our fishing and boating heritage, and conserves, restores and protects the resources that sustain it.

Through the Sport Fish Restoration Program, tax dollars from the purchase of rods, reels, lures, flies, motorboat fuel and accessories go toward conducting research, reintroducing sport fish species, restoring habitats, offering aquatic education, and constructing boat ramps and fishing piers.

By incorporating the Sport Fish Restoration logo — a shared symbol of cooperative conservation — in communication materials, RBFF partners and stakeholders can help educate the public about how boaters and anglers contribute to funding conservation in this country.

Fiscal Year 2019 Financial Review

Thank you for your interest and participation in FY19's progress to 60 in 60