This past weekend’s (Nov. 2-4) Good Sam Rally at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway was a successful venture in most every way it could be measured by host Good Sam Enterprises LLC, an affiliate of mega-dealer Camping World Inc., based in Lincolnshire, Ill.
With attendee coaches set up in the race track’s infield, the Daytona rally drew 3,375 consumer rigs, a public gate of about 5,000, dealer displays representing over 25 North American RV builders, a total of about 400 display coaches plus a tent full of indoor vendors occupying 300 booths.
Consumers, enjoying temperatures in the 80’s in the day and 60’s at night, were treated to an agenda of activities that included 25 daily seminars, a veterans’ parade, a dog show, area tours, fireworks displays and entertainment by C&W entertainers Kenny Rogers and Reba McEntire from an outdoor stage set up near the race track’s finish line.
“We always look at it like this: We want people to enjoy the seminars, the exhibits and have a good time with the entertainment,” Good Sam Vice President of Sales Terry Thompson tells RVBUSINESS.com. “And our hope, obviously, is that they buy a lot of product from the exhibitors and, you know, that they meet new friends and have a good experience at the rally and feel good about the lifestyle.
“And I think that all that happened here,” adds Thompson, noting that the celebrity entertainment was a big plus. “I mean, this was a big rally — to get over 3,000 rigs in early November in Florida is hard to do, and we did it, and I think people were really happy with it.”
One of the key pluses for holding a rally at a raceway, which Good Sam also did earlier this year in Phoenix, is that it provides consumers with a convenient and fun means of test driving demonstration coaches right on the track. Thompson reported that 110 motorhomes were available from various manufacturers at the speedway this past weekend.
“What really helped at this rally is that people got to test drive motorhomes around the track,” said Thompson, who’s responsible for selling the exhibitor space at Good Sam’s rallies. “That’s kind of unique. You know, it’s fun. We let these guys drive all the way around. Obviously, they better stay low or they’ll tip over. But it helps people (exhibitors) get deals done.
“Of course, we can’t always hold rallies at tracks, but at least here the novelty of driving around the track is pretty cool,” he continued. “I know some manufacturers did really well, including Winnebago, Fleetwood and Tiffin. These guys were happy.”
Good Sam, the only organization other than the Cincinnati-based Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) to host national-scale rallies at this point, registered 3,370 rigs in Phoenix and 2,033 in Louisville while next year’s two rallies are slated for Albuquerque, N.M., in April and Syracuse, N.Y., in June.
Punctuating a strong year on the RV show circuit, Good Sam Enterprises LLC rolls out its third consumer rally this weekend as more than 3,300 rigs have gathered for the Nov. 2-4 event at Florida’s famed Daytona International Speedway.
“We had more than 3,300 rigs registered and probably will approach 3,500,” Terry Thompson, vice president of sales for Good Sam, told RVBUSINESS.com while directing traffic Thursday at the Speedway. “We’re anticipating a really strong public gate as well.”
Thompson noted that 2012 marked the first year that Good Sam had managed three shows. He said that earlier runs in Phoenix and Louisville, Ky., generated strong gates and may have set the table for the Daytona edition.
“We had 3,370 rigs in Phoenix and 2,033 in Louisville,” Thompson said. “Obviously, we’re above that for Daytona, so with the public gate it’s lining up to be our best rally of the year. I think that people who attended our first two rallies got out the word that they were great events and that brought more people to Daytona.”
While weather is forecasting to be ideal this weekend with warm temperatures and sunshine, Rally Director Sue Bray noted that a brush with “Superstorm” Sandy earlier in the week posed some concerns.
“Sandy fortunately didn’t hit here,” said Bray. “It passed by before we were set up. We have a huge tent that houses all of the vendors but the scaffolding is all that was in place.”
Thompson said that over 25 manufacturers signed on for the rally and are blanketing the infield with new product at the expansive Speedway facility.
“The great thing about having a rally at Daytona is that people can test drive vehicles on the racetrack,” he said. “That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course, the hope is that they also buy the unit they’re testing.”
Over 300 10-foot by 10-foot vendor booths are set up under the tent, also positioned in the infield area. In addition, Bray said that the rally features 25 seminars each day along with a non-stop roster of special events and attractions.
“When people aren’t looking at RVs, they’ll have plenty to keep them busy,” Bray said. “There’s a veteran’s parade, a dog show and numerous optional tours, along with fireworks displays.”
Headlining the entertainment lineup for the rally are country superstars Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers.
“We are looking forward to a great rally,” Thompson said. “I think that the fact we’re seeing these kinds of numbers in early November – even before the big influx of snowbirds – is a real good sign that our industry is in good shape.”
Good Sam announced that as part of its 2013 goal to foster corporate social responsibility it has launched a new employee-related initiative called ‘Project Good Samaritan’ dedicated to its “mission of making our community a better place both as corporate citizens and for individual employees through a dedicated focus on philanthropy.”
According to a press release, the new initiative provides for the staff to volunteer eight hours of their work time a quarter to causes within their community that are meaningful to them.
“We believe that every corner of the organization, from the corporate office to our retail stores, call centers and RV dealerships across the U.S., our employees believe in our corporate responsibility, and will be excited to execute this program,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of Good Sam and Camping World Inc. “We’ve had an amazing year and are eager to give back and support charitable organizations. It occurred to us that we could have a greater impact and help more people in our communities by using our staff on an ongoing basis.”
Lemonis recently led by example with his participation on ABC’s “Secret Millionaire” this past summer. He returned to his hometown of Miami for a specific episode of “Secret Millionaire” where he worked with three charity organizations to help provide the resources for them to succeed.
Good Sam, along with its sister company Camping World, currently employs approximately 5,000 associates and is the largest workforce in the outdoor and RV industries operating locations in 33 states.
“Good Sam and Camping World employees walk the talk when it comes to social responsibility and giving back to local communities,” said Zrinka Allen, executive vice president, human resources and social responsibility. “Our long term goal is to continue developing and promoting initiatives that keep the company and associates focused on giving back locally, consistent with the charter of the Good Sam Club in 1966 “people helping people.”
The Good Sam Club today (July) announced the dates for the organization’s two scheduled rallies in 2013.
According to a press release, the first event will be held April 11-14 in Albuquerque, N.M., at the Balloon Fiesta Field, followed by a June 13-16 rally in Syracuse, N.Y., at the New York State Fair.
“Many club members and RV industry personnel have been asking about our 2013 Rally schedule,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of the Good Sam Club and Camping World Inc. “In 2012, we expanded our rally schedule to make the events accessible to more members. After the terrific response we got from both members and exhibitors at our 2012 Louisville Rally last month and at our Phoenix rally earlier this year, we determined that we would schedule two Rallies in 2013.”
Good Sam is still accepting reservations for the last of the three 2012 Rallies presented by DISH, to be held in Daytona, Fla., at the Daytona International Speedway, Nov. 2-4. Entertainment at the Daytona Rally will feature country superstar Reba McEntire and American Idol’s Katharine McPhee.
“With an exciting location like the Daytona International Speedway, the outstanding entertainment, not to mention all of the great rally activities, we are expecting a big turnout and a great time for all of our guests,” said Lemonis.
Good Sam Enterprises LLC kicks off its Louisville Rally – the Lincolnshire, Ill.-based company’s second national consumer gathering of the year – tomorrow morning (June 21) in the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), the same facility in which the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) holds its annual National RV Trade Show each winter.
A consumer coach count of about 2,000 rigs is down some from the 3,370 units registered at the company’s March rally at the Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona, but is pretty much on a par with that of Good Sam’s last Louisville consumer confab two years ago, reports Rally Director Sue Bray.
The Louisville rally, featuring hundreds of informative expert seminars, a veteran’s parade, guided tours to area sites and performances by entertainers Sheryl Crow and Burt Bacharach, runs through Sunday.
“We have very happy people, it seems like, because this is a great venue for us,” Bray, a longtime voice of the Good Sam Club, told RVBUSINESS.com, “and we’re just almost where we were (in terms of attendance) when we were here two years ago.”
Although the summer heat is a factor again this time around in Louisville, it’s not as bad as it was two years ago when the crowds gravitated to the shelter of the air conditioning system at the KEC — a big facility in which some 400 recreational vehicles are being displayed this week.
While OEM display space was sold out at the indoor show, the supplier area, housing 350 booth exhibits, was almost sold out as well, says Bray.
“There’s a couple new things that we’re doing,” added Bray. “One is we’re having something called the Good Sam Culinary Experience, and Food Network chef Bob Blumer is going to be doing cooking demonstrations. And we’ll also have some grills going and that kind of thing from Camping World so people can see the latest and greatest cooking gadgets as well as cooking styles.
“And we’re also offering our first-ever Bark Park, a dog park where you can take your dog and let it run around with other dogs. And we’ve got lots of pet things going on with our dog show, and then we do pet adoptions with the Louisville Humane Society, which is bringing out some adoptable dogs and cats.”
A personal $25,000 donation from Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, helped kick off a new fundraising campaign launched earlier this week aimed at helping pay off the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s bank loans on the RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum in Elkhart, Ind.
The goal is to raise $100,000 in voluntary contributions by Aug. 31, all of which is to be matched by the Robert “Boots” Ingram family, which has put up a $100,000 challenge grant for the purpose of lowering the Hall’s debt to 1st Source Bank by $200,000.
“After seeing the information on what the Ingram family did and the attempt to pay down the bank – and knowing that the Ingram donation was really a match, not a guarantee from what I understand – yesterday (May 9) I made a contribution of $25,000 in the hope that other people will fill the gap and put this issue to rest,” said Lemonis, whose 5,000-employee, privately held firm based in Lincolnshire, Ill., operates 78 RV dealerships and 93 Camping World parts and accessories stores.
“You know,” he told RVBUSINESS.com, “they’re not asking for a lot, this organization (the Hall of Fame) that we’ve talked about in the past, and we need to know that it survives. It was as simple as that for me. I made a commitment a year and a half ago to do something, and this is a good gesture to ensure that other people feel the same level of responsibility.”
Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer, a former inductee appointed to his new post in March, says the Lemonis donation should help expedite the debt-reduction drive and give the Hall a leg up in reaching its stated goal.
“We need to reach the goal by the end of August to match the Ingram’s $100,000,” reported Searer. “And this is certainly a great start towards that, and I really appreciate the fact that Marcus Lemonis has stepped up to be the first significant donor toward meeting that goal. We’re 25% of the way there, as of now.”
Searer, chairman of Elkhart, Ind.-based Ultra-Fab Products Inc., reports that things are going well. “Yes, phenomenal is the best way to put it,” said Searer. “The people who are coming forward and offering assistance have just been more than I could expect.”
Upgrading the website has been a major priority for Searer, a former Hall treasurer and board member who has a “lengthy list” of things he wants to do this year in taking over the reins at the Hall, which houses a museum and library as well as rental facilities. That list includes “meetings with the mayor, newspapers and county officials.”
Meanwhile, Searer said he was pleased to have received a donation of 20 tables and 200 chairs from Elkhart’s Matterhorn Conference Center Banquets Catering, which provides catering services. The Hall of Fame previously had to arrange for rental tables and chairs for events held at the north side Elkhart shrine to the locally based recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries.
Tax-deductible gifts, adds Searer, may be made by mail, in person at the Hall, by phone at (800) 378-8694, or through www.rvmhhalloffame.org.
Editor’s Note: Good Sam got plenty of air time Sunday night (April 29) on national TV as NBC’s popular “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants performed a task centered around the RVing icon. A summary of the show, courtesy of NBC, follows:
Star Donald Trump introduced Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO for Good Sam Enterprises, the RV owner organization. Lemonis described the task: the celebrities must write a 90-second jingle for Good Sam and then perform it for a live audience.
The celebrities will be judged on the following criteria: 1) the actual jingle, 2) brand messaging and 3) the performance itself.
Trump points out that Forte has a great singer in Clay Aiken, and Unanimous has Aubrey O’Day. Arsenio Hall takes over as project manager (PM) for Unanimous. He knows Aubrey will try “stealing his thunder” but he doesn’t care. Dayana Mendoza steps up as PM for Forte. Trump is surprised, having expected Clay to take it. But Dayana says it’s her turn. Trump offers $20,000 to the winning PM, and Lemonis adds to that $25,000 from Good Sam and 100 percent of the proceeds from the Good Sam mascot.
It’s performance time. As the teams are getting ready, Clay overhears Aubrey singing her jingle and listens through the curtain. Aubrey tells Dayana that she likes their jingle better. Then their ’50s themed performance goes off. While the performance goes well, Dayana is upset still that Lisa and Clay weren’t “professional” enough to include her on the task. But Clay thinks that both he and Lisa did a great job with the performance, since it’s what they do well. Lemonis was pleased with the energy of the performance, but thought that they played it safe with the material, and he was disappointed that when Dayana came out at the end of the performance, she wasn’t dressed in the Good Sam colors. Overall though, he thought they did a good job.
Unanimous does their performance. Teresa Giudice and Arsenio do their bit of being a couple stranded on the road. Arsenio thinks they did a great job and that Teresa “killed it,” while Aubrey thinks they were awful and comments on how painful it is to work with people who just aren’t as used to performing. Then, when Teresa “calls” Good Sam, the jingle starts, ending with Arsenio’s rap and Aubrey jumping into Good Sam’s arms. Afterwards, Lemonis thinks they nailed it. He loved the energy; he thought they hit the brand messaging; he thinks it looks very well-rehearsed; he can’t get the jingle out of his head, and he liked how they used the mascot. He wasn’t however crazy about the cheerleader’s outfit.
Ultimately, Trump selects Unanimous as the winner and Dayana Mendoza, who has faced elimination on at least six prior occasions and endured the wrath of several of her fellow contestants throughout the series, is fired.
Good Sam today (April 25) announced their selection in the fifth installment of NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” featuring American business mogul Donald J. Trump.
According to a press release, Good Sam was chosen among several Fortune 500 companies to be featured as a task sponsor on a 2012 segment of the popular NBC reality series. The episode will highlight some of the many benefits and services Good Sam provides to the community.
The latest season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” debuted Feb. 19 and the Good Sam featured episode will air April 29 on NBC at 9 p.m. (Eastern) and will include footage of Good Sam Chairman and CEO Marcus Lemonis.
Donald Trump commented, “Good Sam, one of the world’s largest lifestyle organizations, provides a wide and wonderful array of products and services, and we are very pleased to have them on our show. I think the episode is exciting and definitely a great fit for our audiences.”
“We are pleased to partner with Mr. Trump with his pop culture phenomenon, ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,’” said Lemonis. “Both Good Sam and ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ have a similar focus on charitable works and Good Sam is focused on providing customer assistance in a multitude of channels. Look forward to seeing Good Sam reveal a new image to the audience.”
Good Sam Enterprises LLC, an affiliate of Camping World Inc., appears to have hit a home run this past week in hosting a bustling consumer rally Mar. 22-25 at the Phoenix International Raceway that was busier than anything the industry has seen in years.
Good Sam spokesmen report that the total coach count at The Rally – 3,370 units comprising about 7,500 people – was amplified by 9,000 to 10,000 day pass visitors during the four-day event. The result was an impressive crowd that drew heavily from the Southwest region and from an established base of Arizona snowbirds and spring baseball training fans.
Participating in outdoor displays were some 27 manufacturers. The indoor exhibits included about 350 10-by-10 booths, and both areas were sold out, reports Terry Thompson, vice president of sales for Good Sam.
Not since a Redmond, Ore., rally in 2005 had Illinois-based Good Sam, then known as Affinity Group Inc., seen traffic like this. “It was a great rally,” said Thompson, whose firm started hosting rallies in 2000. “It’s the biggest rally we’ve had in a number of years. In addition to the 3,370 rigs, we had a lot of drive-ups that came in and, fortunately, not a lot of cancellations. And so we haven’t had a rally like this in years, quite frankly.”
Beyond the social and commercial aspects, and the seminars and frontline entertainment — including Bill Cosby and Martina McBride – the Arizona location was the biggest factor in attracting a crowd, Rally Director Sue Bray maintains.
“It went really well,” said Bray. “People were very happy, and Phoenix is a great destination. We worked really hard to try to do some grassroots marketing to bring in the day traffic. We went around to all the campgrounds and left two-for-one coupons for day passes. We did some TV advertising and we also promoted at the local Camping World stores. That was all stuff that we had not really done before, and so I think it paid off. But also I think that people really want to come to Phoenix and I’m glad that we finally found a place that can accommodate the event.”
Bottom line, Bray agreed, the basic show formula with some tweaks seems to have survived the economic downturn – a fact that might be confirmed in subsequent Good Sam rallies this year as the company expands its consumer-centric rally schedule for the first time from one to three events. Upcoming venues are June 21-24 in Louisville, Ky., and Nov. 2-6 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Good Sam/Camping World Chairman Marcus Lemonis says the biggest difference in opting for a racing facility in Phoenix vs. traditional show sites like Redmond and Perry, Ga., is that they had to build their own infrastructure.
“There was nothing here other than asphalt,” said Lemonis, “and I think we’ve proven that we can go into major metropolitan markets and not only serve the RV community and the snowbirds that were there, but also we were expecting a lot more people over five days in terms of day passes compared to Redmond, which was 2,000, because you have a base of four million people in Phoenix.”
One other noteworthy twist at Phoenix from an industry perspective was the rather surprising participation of rolling stock dealers not affiliated with Camping World RV Sales, a sister company to Good Sam and the nation’s largest RV retailer.
“You’ll notice that the Camping World presence was not that predominant here,” Lemonis told RVBUSINESS.com. “You don’t really see it. There were 19 dealers other than us in Phoenix, and that was a really important priority for me. You know, La Mesa, Lazy Days, Paul Evert’s, McMahon’s, Robert Crist and Orangewood were involved. The point is that this was not a Camping World event. This was a Good Sam event, and they really are different. Yes, Camping World had a (parts and accessories) store (at the Phoenix Raceway), like they do at a lot of events like FMCA rallies, and the Camping World dealership had a display along with 19 other dealers. So, it was really a Good Sam event.”
How did Lemonis, a controversial industry figure who had all but secluded his company from the rest of the industry a year ago, succeed in convincing those independent dealers to participate in a function sponsored by a Camping World affiliate, an arch-rival in effect for several of them?
“We didn’t really talk dealers into coming,” added Lemonis. “We gave the manufacturers our word that it would be fair and free enterprise. They are the ones that actually buy the space. They’re the ones who took the chance. They seemed extremely pleased. At the end of the day, if you (manufacturers and dealers) come and you have a good experience and sell product – whatever your opinion is — you don’t care. Selling RV’s is what matters.”
Thousands of RVers are converging on Phoenix International Raceway today (March 22) for the first Good Sam Rally of 2012, which runs through Sunday.
According to a press release, the entertainment lineup includes two Platinum recording artists; Bill Cosby and Martina McBride. Sha Na Na’s Bowzer will provide the opening night’s entertainment, setting the stage for Ticket to Ride, a Beatle’s tribute band performing covers of the legendary hits.
Rally-goers will also enjoy daily trade shows featuring acres of RVs on display – including a few to test-drive around the track – and hundreds of exhibitors offering a wide range of RV parts and accessories. There will also be daily seminars and tours of landmarks and activities in the Phoenix area, including a spring training game pitting the San Diego Padres against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In addition, Camping World is sponsoring a Match n’ Win game with winners being eligible for thousands of dollars in merchandise. A post-rally tour is slated for March 26-28 at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park that will include first-class accommodations aboard the historic Grand Canyon Railroad.
Good Sam is hosting two other 2012 rallies: June 21-24 in Louisville, Ky. and November 2-4 in Daytona Beach, Fla. For more information visit www.therally.com, or call (877) 749-7122.