Niche Advertising/Audience Targeting


Catch & Keep: New Audiences Get Hooked On Fishing During COVID-19

September 16, 2020 Melissa Ledesma

Shutterstock_1197062707 Happy Father and Son together fishing from a boat at sunset time in summer day under beautiful sky on the lake.

As a result of the global pandemic, consumer behaviors and values evolved, and many people developed interests in new hobbies and forms of entertainment. At-home hobbies were the first to take hold, for obvious reasons, but the summer months found people outside enjoying all that nature has to offer. From fly fishing in rivers to recreational fishing near the shore line, fishing has soared in popularity during COVID-19. Sports, outdoor and active apparel brands, like Columbia Sportswear, and fishing-related nonprofit organizations have an opportunity to innovate their marketing strategies to retain new numbers of fishing enthusiasts and build brand loyalty, turning this new trend from fad to future conversions. 

COVID-19 Hooked More Consumers On Recreational Fishing

The slow, serene nature and outdoor setting of fishing, coupled with the ability to enjoy time alone or with others at a safe distance, has positioned fishing to be an ideal distraction during COVID-19. The need to find a socially distant activity, engage in a calming hobby and spend time safely outside all created the perfect scenario for the rise of anglers (people who fish with a rod and line) in the U.S. Fly-fishing, especially, discourages crowds, as the activity suggests a minimal distance of 75 feet from one angler to another for safety. 

According to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) “2020 Special Report On Fishing,” 3.1 million consumers tried fishing for the first time in 2020, growing the total number of U.S. consumers who fish recreationally up to more than 50 million. During Q2, the number of fishing licenses in the U.S. jumped 10.2% compared to the same period in 2019. 

The need for escapism and serenity are key influencers driving interest among new fishing participants. Among all first-time fishers, 59% noted the desire for a stress-free activity as their main motivator for participating, with interest in an outdoor activity a close second . Prior to their first fishing excursion, 71% of all first-time participants believed fishing would be relaxing and unwinding. Most consumers who fish typically engage in the sport while enjoying another outdoor activity. Specifically, 84% of campers noted that they engage in some sort of fishing activity. 

Fishing Brands Could Bait New Consumer Segments As Interest Grows

Despite challenges brick-and mortar stores are facing during the pandemic, the sports fishing equipment market is estimated to grew by 3.5% this year, as the effects of COVID-19 encouraged a broader audience to embrace fishing. 

Female Participation In Fishing Is At An All-Time High

After a decade of fishing participation among women remaining relatively flat, in 2020 the number of female fishing participants grew by 3%, with the most growth among girls ages 13 to 17. According to RBFF, 35% of female fishers claimed they would like to fish more often. 

Hispanics Represent The Fastest Growing Fishing Audience Segment

Year over year, fishing participation among Hispanics grew by 4%. In 2020, the total number of Hispanics who fish hit 4.4 million. Among all ethnic groups, Hispanic people represent the largest segment of new anglers. Additionally, in 2020, Hispanic fishing participants planned or attended more annual fishing outings than the average angler, 20.3 times per year compared to 17.5. 

Columbia Sportswear Launches Partnership To Retain Diverse Fishing Audiences

Columbia NASCAR Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr.

Major sports apparel brand, Columbia Sportswear took steps to connect with younger and more diverse audiences in its latest brand partnership. Last month, Columbia Sportswear announced avid fishing, hiking and outdoor enthusiast and NASCAR star Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. as their newest brand ambassador. Wallace is known as the, “fastest fish on the track,” and Columbia Sportswear stresses this on their dedicated Instagram highlight about Bubba.

Although consumer interest in fishing and outdoor activities is high, Columbia Sportswear stores struggled during mandatory closures for parts of 2020. With an opportunity to recover and capitalize on new consumer interest, Columbia Sportswear's announcement of their partnership with a 26-year-old African-American race car driver is perfectly timed to connect with diverse Gen Z and Millennial audiences. In a press release Wallace said, “Columbia Sportswear is a perfect fit for my lifestyle away from the track. I love spending time outdoors – boating, golfing, hiking, photography – just anything to help me decompress from a hectic racing schedule.”

Outdoor Sporting & Apparel Brands Need To Focus On Catching & Retaining New Audiences

During 2020, many Americans developed a heightened interest in outdoor activities causing a boom in outdoor product sales. Johnson Outdoors CEO Hele Johnson-Leipold told reporter Tom Ryan of RetailWire, “[Consumers] are eager for recreational activities that are rejuvenating to the mind, body and spirit and safe to enjoy.” Brands selling fishing equipment and apparel have the opportunity to convert casual anglers into life-long customers, but digital marketers representing outdoor and fishing brands will need continued focus on engagement of new audiences to maintain mindshare. 

The RBFF’s audience expansion campaigns, such as Women Making Waves designed for women audiences and Vamos a Pescar for Hispanic audiences, will continue to engage diverse audiences. Fishing outdoor brand marketers may want to support the messages of the RBFF as they continue promoting all types of fishing activities as fun, relaxing and low-cost ways to enjoy the outdoors no matter how the effects of COVID-19 evolve.

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About the Author

Melissa Ledesma

An innovative problem solver by nature, Melissa Ledesma is both experienced and passionate about the digital marketing industry. She has held a number of high-level positions within the real estate, mortgage, entertainment and digital advertising industries, including Director of PR and Business Development at NJ Lenders Corp. and Director of Communications & Government Affairs at Eastern Bergen County Board of Realtors. As Director of Content & Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), Melissa demonstrates a strategic, creative and tactical approach when handling the thought leadership programs and marketing and communications efforts for DMS and its family of brands. She manages all conferences, sponsorships and event execution and plays a pivotal role in the creation of written, digital and video content for all campaigns. Melissa has consistently positioned the team at DMS as experts in performance marketing across multiple industries.

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