Discover Boating Research to Help Reach the Next Generation of Boaters

When the NMMA and MRAA teams set out to build an amplified, relevant Discover Boating, starting with a refreshed brand voice and look and a new campaign, both of which launched this year, first on deck was understanding the boating consumer and the potential boating consumer to be, especially in a post-pandemic world. In partnership with agency partner, Cutwater, a host of research was conducted that looked at everything from the feelings and mindset of long-time boat owners, first-time boat owners and potential boat owners to be, to their interests, and key demographics.

“We knew we couldn’t simply profile today’s boat owners to find the next generation. Given the shifts post-pandemic, and the overall cultural and demographic shifts in our population, not surprisingly, our research showed the next generation looks, acts, and thinks differently than current boat owners and yet their mindset and interests in many ways, remain similar,” said Ellen Bradley, chief brand officer for NMMA. “These key findings guided all aspects from our new logo and the “See You Out Here” creative to the media, influencers, and PR you’ll see in the coming months.”

Research findings showed current boat owners are:

  • Older than the average American, with a median age of 54, and they are six years older than the US median age.
  • High-income and high net-worth compared to the average American.
  • More likely to be male than the average American.
  • Much more likely to be Caucasian than the average American.

At the same time, demographic trends show this population shrinking as the overall population shifts younger and more multicultural. As a result, next generation boaters are naturally more diverse when it comes not just to age, ethnicity, and gender, but in attitudes, behaviors, and even location. What’s more, they’re less likely to come from boat-owning families than previous generations.

Three key segments emerged from the research: Traditional Boaters, Growth Segment and Emerging Segment. The Traditional Boaters are who their name suggests – they most closely resemble the current boat owner, while the Growth and Emerging segments are opportunities to expand the market for recreational boating, representing 91 million people and more than 1.5x the Traditional Boater segment size.

Traditional Boaters: This group looks most like today’s boat owners and has the highest penetration of boat ownership and participation in boating activities. They are older and more suburban/ex-urban than other groups.

Growth Segment: This group pursues boating-adjacent activities at high rates, including powersports, biking and hiking and is younger. In fact, they are younger than current first-time boat buyers. And, they are more ethnically and racially diverse and more likely to live in denser areas.

Emerging Segment: This group is a large, dynamic, and affluent segment of the potential future boat owner population. In their daily lives, while they are not pursuing the outdoor activities predictive of future boating, they are doing those activities on vacation with a potential “pull” via rental activity. They are the most diverse, most affluent segment.

Some shared characteristics of the Growth and Emerging segments include:

  • Likely to attend events like auto shows, food/beverage festivals and music festivals.
  • Consider themselves more environmentally conscious.
  • Are heavy users of social media including Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, TikTok.
  • Enjoy foreign and domestic travel.
  • Participate in outdoor recreation activities, including golfing, cycling, running, playing tennis, and yoga.
  • Watch sporting events online.
  • Own autos from brands including BMW, Jeep, Tesla, and Subaru.

Added Bradley, “A key takeaway is that the freedom of being on the water, and the feelings associated with that freedom, were significant unifiers and influencers for boating. Those feelings of freedom are what we work to capture in our creative and throughout our marketing efforts. At the same time, the social connections and opportunities that uniquely come with boating, align with what both future and current boat owners are looking for.”

Discover Boating, powered by NMMA and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA), is focused on inviting the next generation of boaters while remaining connected with current boaters. Sharing the joy of life on the water with future boaters and let them know everyone is welcome. The insights gleaned from the brand’s research can help the recreational boating industry define targets for their own marketing initiatives based on the behaviors and demographics of these key segments.

For more information on the latest Discover Boating consumer research, visit

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