The recreational vehicle industry’s Go RVing Coalition has directed its marketing firm, the Richards Group, Dallas, Texas, to “reinvigorate” its national campaign with new television commercials for 2010 utilizing existing – and perhaps some new — video and still photography.
It’s an economical approach that allows the coalition to put on a fresh — if not altogether new — face for 2010, and it was unanimously agreed upon Monday (June 8) when the coalition met during RVIA Committee Week in Washington, D.C.
Revenues with which the coalition buys ads are down this year, of course, because those funds are generated by assessments on RVIA seals and, due to the economy, seal sales are down considerably. In fact, the Go RVing media budget was trimmed to $3.5 million this year from a high point of $15.5 million two years ago, RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella told the assembled coalition members.
The new ads will likely debut at this winter’s Louisville Show and on television in February.
Coalition Co-Chairman Tom Stinnett, owner of Tom Stinnett RV Freedom Center, Clarksville, Ind., said that the Go RVing campaign continues to be important to the industry, even at a reduced spending level.
“It’s very important, even with 20% of the budget that we once had,” Stinnett said. “We all know that there will be a rebound. It makes a lot of sense that, whatever we do with whatever limited budget we have, will help us rebound better and faster when the time comes.”
With economist Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan estimating that RV sales will increase 24% next year — plus or minus 15% — LaBella figures the Go RVing media budget will total “almost $5 million” in 2010. “We have been doing great things with the money that we have, considering everything that is going on in this economy,” he said..
All in all, most coalition members seemed to agree, the Go RVing campaign – along with related public relations efforts by the RVIA staff – has played a key role in bolstering the RV industry’s image during these very trying times.
“It’s no accident that our image to date has not been wounded,” LaBella said, noting that the boating industry’s “Grow Boating” campaign — fashioned after Go RVing — has been scrapped altogether due to economic conditions.
“By keeping our image high, we are going to be in a better position when the economic situation turns around, to come out of this faster than anybody else in terms of discretionary purchases” LaBella said. “There is going to be pent up demand because people are still very interested in our products.”
“I think this program is the lifeblood of our industry,” Thor Industries Inc. CEO Richard E. “Dicky” Riegel, a coalition member who supported revamping the advertising creative for 2010, told the coalition.
Lance Wilson, executive director of the Florida Recreation Vehicle Trade Association, also favored staying the course right now with the national ad campaign by investing as much as $550,000 in revamped ads. “I think it’s a great idea and we need to move forward with it,” Wilson said.
The new campaign materials will be drawn from photos and video footage that wasn’t used during earlier campaigns — the theme of the most recent phase being “What Will You Discover?” The 2009 campaign ads have been exposed to a wide array of audiences, from NASCAR races to rodeos and the Kentucky Derby plus the PBA bowling circuit as well as more sedate audiences focused on the National Geographic Channel. Print ads ran the gamut from Budget Travel to Midwest Living.“If we produce new creative at this time, it’s an opportunity to reenergize and reinvigorate the industry,” the Richard Groups’ Chad Strohl told the coalition. “It’s all about getting leaner and smarter while trying to achieve maximum effect. A key point is that it will allow us to get ready with a fresh message as the economy does turn around.”
With regard to dealer participation in the Go RVing program, meanwhile, Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), said fewer dealers signed up this year than last. Enrollment is down from about 700 dealers in 2008 to 450 this year. “We are working very hard in a one-on-one mode calling dealers who had signed up in the past who haven’t signed up this year,” Ingrassia said.
Dealers who pay $225 a year have access to Go RVing-themed promotional material along with retail leads from potential RV buyers who contact Go RVing on its website or by telephone
“Our numbers aren’t where we would want them to be, but we have a good strong core of dealers participating in the program who are downloading leads every day,” Ingrassia told the coaltion members. “We hope to add to that was we move forward.”
Occupancy in the nation’s campgrounds was up about 3% over the Memorial Day weekend, but there’s a new trend emerging: Many campers are waiting until the last moment to book sites instead of planning ahead.
That’s what Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, reported to the Go RVing Coalitions at its Monday (June 8) meeting during RVIA Committee Week in Washington, D.C.
”People are making their reservations later than they did before, but reservations are coming in,” she noted during the afternoon session at the Willard InterContinental Hotel.
”Memorial Day would be a great example of that. We didn’t know what the weekend would be like until a week before when reservations really came in. There was a 3% increase in reservations and occupancy this year compared to last year.”
All things considered, Profaizer said park operations are anticipating a decent — but not spectacular — year.
”While they might be having a decent year, it’s not going to be setting any records,” she told coalition members. ”We are all concerned about our businesses. They’ve been affected (by the economy) like we all have personally. We just have to keep promoting the benefits of camping.”
Profaizer, at the same time, said that a new market appears to be developing with people who are new to camping.
”We are seeing an increase in tenting, and please do not ignore the tenting market because tenters become RVers,” she said. ”They come into the campground and they see people enjoying the RV experience.”
Curiously, Profaizer feels that the general public has a lack of understanding about what camping and RVs are about.
”We are finding there is an amazing lack of knowledge on the part of the non-camping public about what it means to go camping,” Profaizer said. ”They don’t even realize that RVs have toilets in them or that campgrounds are not primitive-type camping.”
As for the Go RVing marketing campaign itself, ARVC, with almost 4,000 members, has seen a decline in participation. Perhaps as a reflection of the economy, only 160 parks have made voluntary contributions to the program so far this year — down from about 450 last year — with an average contribution of $178 per park. Although ARVC had a goal to contribute $50,000 to the Go RVing campaign this year, so far only $28,500 has been raised.
”That’s really not good,” said Profaizer, whose trade association has never been a major financial contributor to the pan-industry program.