‘Back in the Saddle Again,’ Fitting Song for ’10
Editor’s Note: Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), shares his thoughts in this letter to RVIA members.
What a difference a year makes! This year – our industry’s centennial year – is off to a strong start with much promising news indicating that the RV market is indeed on the road to recovery. This has sparked a contagious sense of optimism about our future that lies in stark contrast to the doubt and fear of early 2009.
Driving this optimism is the fact that RV wholesale shipments have been trending upward. RV shipments totaled 15,800 units for the month of January – a 116% rise over the January 2009 total of 7,300 units. This marked the sixth consecutive monthly improvement for RV shipments to dealers. With the RV market strengthening, Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers is now predicting that wholesale shipments will total 215,900 units for 2010, a 30% rise over 2009’s year-end total of 165,700 units.
Importantly, stories about the RV industry’s turnaround are appearing in the national media, with The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, Fox Business Network and the Associated Press all reporting on the upturn in RV sales.
This coverage echoes themes and storylines promoted by RVIA in our outreach to the media – that the industry is a leading economic indicator with rising shipments boding well for the general economy, that RVing has remained popular with Americans throughout the economic downturn and that RVing offers great value. These are all very powerful messages for potential buyers to hear as we approach the important spring and summer selling season.
Also boosting exposure for RVing in this pivotal time in the industry’s recovery is Go RVing’s “Go Affordably. Go RVing” national advertising campaign for 2010, launched to huge television audiences watching Daytona 500-related programming and the Winter Olympics over the President’s Day weekend. The Vancouver Olympics went on to become the second-most watched Winter Games ever, with a total of 190 million Americans tuning in to all coverage on the networks of NBC Universal. Go RVing ran 105 ad spots during NBC Olympics programming Feb. 13-28.
Highlighting this year’s efforts are the new “Ambassadors of Affordability” television commercials that feature colorful animal spokespeople (including a bison, fox, bear and jackrabbit) to capture viewer attention, boost awareness and recall. The “Ambassadors” also are featured on the re-launched GoRVing.com that provides a fresh look, updated information and much more interactivity to enhance visitors’ experiences.
The new ads and website are backed by an expansive $8.25 million media plan for 2010 that will reach prospects with a wide variety of interests and media habits through television, print and online advertising. The total media budget is more than double what we were able to spend in 2009, thanks to the improving economy and increases in RV sales. Though still only about half of what we invested in media in 2006 before the recession, this year’s additional media spending will help us do more to help the industry recover from this down period in our history.
The new Go RVing ads and website have been a hit with the industry since they were unveiled at the Outlook 2010 program in Louisville. RVDA Chairman Debbie Brunoforte said, “The Ambassadors of Affordability” campaign is the perfect way to communicate the affordability of RVing. The message is entertaining and memorable. RVing is fun, and so are these ads and the clever new interactive website.”
Initial consumer response to the campaign is also very favorable. Preliminary measures (with only a small fraction of 2010 media running) indicate that the new ads and website are boosting response. Over the launch weekend of Feb. 12-15, GoRVing.com logged over 7,000 visits, up more than a third from the previous weekend when the old TV spots were running. Page views on the new site almost tripled. Perhaps most significantly, the average time spent on the site by a visitor rose to approximately four-and-a-half minutes – 79% more than previously.
This encouraging early data points to the fact that this year’s Go RVing ads, website and media investment will re-energize customers, all the while working in tandem with RVIA’s aggressive public relations efforts to shine the light on the RV industry in this critical time of economic recovery.
And there is even more on tap to boost our exposure. The RV Centennial Celebration, being spearheaded by RVIA, is shaping up to be not only an important media opportunity, but also a way to lift the spirits of our entire industry and kick off our second century on a high note. There are many exciting events and promotions scheduled for this industry-wide, year-long celebration, including:
- The RV Centennial Media Tour – RVIA spokesperson and RV historian David Woodworth will hit the road for two weeks this spring, traveling to media markets in the Northeast and Midwest to show how RVs have evolved and changed through the years while emphasizing that the reasons for RVing are the same today as they were in 1910.
- “Centennial Charlie’s Cross-Country Caravan” – A 100-day tour to RV retail shows and factories by the official Centennial mascot – Charlie, an American stuffed black bear – that will generate enthusiasm among the industry and consumers.
- RV Centennial Celebration Month – We are designating June as RV Centennial Celebration Month as a focal point for the industry to rally around as the summer vacation season kicks off. We are working to have President Obama and Congress issue proclamations to mark the occasion.
- The RV Centennial Celebration – RVIA will host an all-industry, 100th anniversary party during our Committee Week & Annual Meeting on June 7 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart. This is going to be an energetic festival, reception and barbecue with a special one-hour program featuring entertaining videos and presentations saluting the RV industry, a cake-cutting ceremony and fireworks display to cap the evening.
- “A Salute to RV Workers” – A very important theme of the centennial party will be a “Salute to RV Workers” to honor the industry’s hard-working men and women who are the heart and soul of our industry. This will include special recognition of those workers and a video salute from industry leaders. In fact, this important message will be a big part of our year-long celebration so that all our audiences understand that the RV workers have kept the RV industry rolling along for the last 100 years.
The RV Centennial Celebration is going to be a tremendous event for all of us throughout 2010. I urge you to visit www.RVCentennial.org to learn more about the event. It is a clearinghouse of information and treasure trove of free resources to help you incorporate the RV Centennial into your own efforts. We hope you will join us in celebrating the RV Centennial. It is a fantastic opportunity for all of us to demonstrate our strength and to draw positive attention to the industry in the coming year.
Certainly, one of the hallmarks of our industry over the last 100 years is the remarkable resiliency of the RV market. We’ve faced some very hard times before and have always come back stronger than ever. This most recent economic downturn is no different.
Our new Go RVing television ads are set to the classic Western tune of “Back in the Saddle Again.” It is a song of friendship, community and enjoying the great outdoors — perfect for promoting RVing. It is also a very fitting theme song for our industry because as 2010 begins we are saddling up once again, ready to ride toward better days and a brighter future.