Over the course of the last five years, Watercraft World magazine and Polaris Industries have been bouncing around the idea of bringing a personal watercraft event to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. With both companies basing their operations out of the Minneapolis area and the wide variety of boating options — not to mention consumers — in the state, it was believed that a consumer event would make solid business sense.
Plans for races, demo rides, and even expanded club-style events didn’t make many waves in the area. Following a recent trend in the sport, however, the two companies worked together to organize and implement a poker run-style river ride event down the Mississippi River. And the investment has paid off.
Watercraft World organizers expected around 75 participants. By way of orchestrating sponsorships with area dealers, DSMs, manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers, the event attracted more than 150 consumers and more than 130 watercraft.
The event itself consisted of a 60-mile round trip down the Mississippi River, and participants were required to stop at each of five checkpoints. Upon returning to the launch site, the participants drew one playing card for each stop they made, and the best poker hand won the grand prize.
The Watercraft World Twin Cities River Run was based off of the idea of several other recreational events that have become popular across the nation. By involving manufacturers and dealers, consumers were allowed to test ride a number of personal watercraft including Polaris’ new MSX line, Kawasaki’s new stand-up and four- stroke, Honda’s new two seater four-stroke, Sea-Doo’s new supercharged four-stroke, and Yamaha’s new GP1300R.
Local dealers had an opportunity for face-to-face contact with consumers from around the area, a chance that some thought was a great sales opportunity.
Consumers were quite eager to get involved, driving from neighboring states such as South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and even as far away as Michigan to be involved. Once the event sold out, other consumers didn’t mind launching at alternate sites and not receiving a gift bag or t-shirt. They just wanted to ride the river with other people, they told event organizers.
Other events like this have popped up all across the country. The poker run in Lake Havasu during the World Finals in 2001 really got things started. From there, industry people recognized the consumer excitement and the opportunity for marketing.
Next, the Florida Rally Series, a three-stop event in the Sunshine State, gave enthusiasts a chance to extend their riding season, not to mention win some prizes, see some new sites, and meet some new people. Then, Waterfest popped up as a way to mix the racing crowd with the recreational families. A week long schedule of events brought out a lot of people.
It’s become obvious that the watercraft business isn’t as dormant as it sometimes appears. The consumers are out there. They’re just looking for an activity to take part in. Enthusiast events like these are a great opportunity to market products, offer test rides, and sell some new boats.
After the first stop of last year’s Florida Rally Series, nearly 1/3 of all participants bought a new model year boat. One hundred percent of those boats were purchased from event sponsors who offered demo rides at the event.
That says a lot.
Copyright 2003 Powersports Business