Thursday, August 06, 2015

Influencer Marketing and the RS Aero

Would you buy into a new class of boat because you heard that someone you admire had bought the boat?

Who are the first people that buy the first boats in a new class? Why do they do it? What kind of sailors are they? And do they have any influence on who buys the boat next and how quickly the class takes off?

Do boat manufacturers deliberately target the first sales of a new class to people who they think will influence other people to buy that boat too?

I've been asking myself these questions over the last few days after meeting some of the other early adopters of the RS Aero at our North Americans the weekend before last, and after reading about who else has been buying RS Aeros.

A comment from R3 on my post in September last year RS Aero Tidbits touched on the same issue.
I thought that it was interesting that the first French review was by someone who likes windsurfing, kitesurfing and sport catamarans, and the second one was by a skiff sailor. It's not only aging Laser sailors who are checking out the RS Aero!

Oh yes, God forbid that the RS Aero should get a reputation only as a boat for aging Laser sailors. Especially a bottom half of the fleet old duffer like me!

Aging - and apparently very slow - Laser and RS Aero sailor

So who are the first RS sailors?

At the first RS Aero North Americans we had...

Dan Falk - 2nd in Lasers at 2014 North American Laser Masters

Dan Falk in his other boat

Michael O'Brien - 1st in Radials at 2014 North American Laser Masters. Michael also has a blog about RS Aero sailing - AeroNautic.

Michael O'Brien demonstrating how to save an RS Aero from death-rolling.
Photo from AeroNautic

Bill Symes - 2nd in Radial Great Grandmasters fleet at 2015 Laser Masters Worlds

Bill Symes in his other boat

OK. So perhaps R3 would call all these guys "aging Laser sailors" but they certainly are way better sailors than me and I suspect that hearing that they are adopting the RS Aero might well influence other Laser sailors to try out the Aero too.

There were three teenagers at the RS Aero North Americans too.

One was a kite surfer.

One was a 29er sailor.

One was an RS Feva sailor who traveled with his brother to France last year to compete in the RS Feva Worlds.

Yannick and Declan Gloster at the 2014 RS Feva Worlds in France

Very impressive young men.  That should go a long way to counter the "aging Laser sailor" tag. The cool kids sail RS Aeros too!

Since returning from Oregon I have also discovered that Hank Saurage from Texas, one of the top Sunfish sailors in the world has bought an RS Aero. Hank regularly finishes in the top 10 at the Sunfish Worlds and was 2nd at the Worlds a few years ago. Are you listening my Sunfish sailor friends?

Hank Saurage at 2009 Sunfish Worlds

And then today I read about an event in Europe in the last few days. The RS Tera is the RS Sailing singlehander for youngsters. They have been holding their World Championships in the Netherlands with 107 kids racing in the event. At the same time and place the RS Aero Class held their Euro Lift-Off and Eurocup.  And two former RS Tera World Champions were sailing in the RS Aero event and placed 1st and 2nd in the RS Aero 5 fleet. You think a few of the 107 RS Tera sailors (and their parents) noticed that? Not to mention all the RS Tera sailors who read about this on social media.

RS Tera Worlds 2015

Will Taylor - 2011 RS Tera World Champion
and first in RS Aero 5 class at 2015 Eurocup

I know next to nothing about marketing - especially marketing of boats - but a quick search around the Interwebs revealed that there is such as thing as "Influencer Marketing."
According to Wikipedia...
Influencer marketing, (also Influence Marketing) is a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.  
It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.  

Is that's what's going on here?

Are some of the examples above due to influencer marketing by RS Sailing or their dealers, or did it all happen by chance?

Even if my examples aren't the results of deliberate influencer marketing, do you think they will motivate others to consider the RS Aero?

Are there other "influencers" that RS Sailing should be targeting?

Who would influence you to buy a new boat? Would you be more likely to by into a new class because the cool kids are sailing it, because the top sailors in your existing class are buying it, or because a friend has bought one?


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir, Because of you, I'm trying to convince my sailing organization to buy a few Aeros.

Unknown said...

I would attribute the great Aero growth locally to 4 key elements:

1. Boat availability. You must be able to easily buy boats at reasonable prices without long wait times.

2. Generous owners who will give demo rides to interested sailors. In Seattle we have been lucky to have several very generous early adopters who loaned their boats out many times.

3. Get key "influencers" onboard in each key demographic. These will bring others.

4. A really great product that is super fun to sail. Folks must finish their demo sail with a smile on their face. The Aero really is easy to promote. It looks good, sails great and is easy to manage.

Tillerman said...

Joe - assuming it is me you are addressing... I am very pleased to hear it.

Over the years I have been writing this blog I have always been surprised when I hear that a reader had got into Laser sailing - or returned to Laser sailing - because of what they had read on this blog. Given that I am not a very good Laser sailor and write a lot about all the mistakes I make when Laser sailing, I often wonder why they would follow me down this path. I guess it must still come across that I have had, and continue to have, a lot of fun sailing my Laser.

If Joe's organization, and maybe others, are considering purchasing Aeros because of what I write on this blog I guess it just goes to show that there are different sorts of influencers. Some, like Michael, have a lot of impact because they are respected for their sailing skills and leadership. Others, like me maybe, have more reach to a wider audience through blog readership and activity on social media.

Michael - totally agree with your comment. Influencers will not succeed unless it is a great product that is fun to sail and is easily available.

And to the point about getting influencers on board in each key demographic... there is one huge gap in the demographics that is not mentioned in my list of influencers in the post. What about female sailors? There was one woman sailing in the RS Aero North Americans but only one. Seemed eerily like most Laser regattas in New England in that respect.

On the other hand it looks as if about half of the RS Aero 5 fleet at that EuroCup event in the Netherlands were girls or women. I do hope that is the pattern we see at future events in North America.

But who will influence the female sailors in North America to take up the Aero?

my2fish said...

sunfish sailor, never raced a sailboat. but I'm admittedly intrigued... not as much for me though. my 14-yr old loves the sailing classes he's taking and I'm sure would love to test out a new challenging sailboat.

Tillerman said...

my2fish - I know you are in Michigan but I think you said one time on your blog that you are not very close to Traverse City. But I did see the other day that the boat dealer in Traverse City, Sailsport Marine has an RS Aero in their showroom. RS Sailing also recently announced a new regional distributor for the mid-west, Central Coast Sailing based in Rockford, Illinois.

single edge aspect said...

Count me as one of those windsurfers who bought an Aero. Like many windsurfers and kiteboarders, I like sailing mindless back and forth planing reaches, with silly grins the whole time. I looked at Lasers in the past, but was turned off by the old technology and the heavy hull tech. I wanted carbon fiber tech and lightweight epoxy hull tech (like my windsurfing equipment). One of these days, when my sailing skills get refined, I might be interested in racing the Aero, but for now, the main reason to beat upwind is to be able to make high speed broad reaches. The Aero fits the bill, although I have to get use to this dacron sail.

PNW windsurfer

my2fish said...

Tillerman, I've been to Sailsport Marine before but it is maybe 3 hours away from where I live. I'll be up that way in early September though... maybe I'll check out the RS then.

Tillerman said...

Single edge aspect - I totally understand. I suspect that you are not alone. I can imagine a lot of people will buy the Aero for "mindless back and forth planing reaches with silly grins the whole time." Nothing wrong with that.

My2fish - hope you do get a chance to check out the Aero soon. Let us know what your reaction is when you see it. I wonder if the dealer would bring the boat to nearer your home so you - and maybe some of your friends - could demo it? No harm in asking.

Unknown said...

Also, in the words of Steven Manson, a champion Sunfish sailor, "It is in a class by itself." A brilliant design! For more insight into the influence of influencers read chapter two (The Law of the Few) of Gladwell's book, "The Tipping Point".

Skippy said...

Going up the gorge to race on a Moore 24 tonight.
John in PDX

single edge aspect said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tillerman said...

Have fun Skippy/John in PDX. Where in the gorge will you be racing?

sea/ PNW windsurfer - is there an echo in here?

single edge aspect said...

Sorry for the echo, I must have hit some button twice.

Tillerman said...

No problem sea. I am sure I must have written the same blog post more than once. There seem to be over 3000 posts in this blog now. Surely there can't be that many different things to report about a simple sport like sailing?

Unknown said...

I've been sailing Lasers for a few years now, and silently following this blog just as long. I wanted to step up to something more exciting. I'm afflicted with single edge's same mindless desire to reach back-and-forth. I was considering both the RS 700 and the Aero. The commentary on this blog (along w/ the cheaper price) convinced me to go w/ the Aero. I know you're not a marketing arm of RS, which makes your commentary on the Aero much more influential (for me at least).

Tillerman said...

Pleased to hear it Dion. You won't be disappointed.

I guess I started writing this post when I realized that many of the sailors I met at the RS Aero North Americans would, simply by buying an RS Aero, be influencing others to do the same because of the respect they command in their existing classes. Then while I was writing it I began to realize that this blog does influence people in a different way - not because I am a particularly good sailor but because my enjoyment of both the Laser and the RS Aero comes across (I hope) and even people who don't aspire to be champion sailors get the message.

As you say, I am not an employee of RS Sailing or paid by them to write blog posts about the RS Aero. But who knows? Maybe they are using me in a more subtle way as part of their influencer marketing efforts? Kudos to them if they do recognize that bloggers are an effective way to reach certain segments of their potential market, although my enthusiasm for the RS Aero is genuine - and my efforts to encourage others to buy RS Aeros is driven mainly by my knowing that the more sailors there are who want to race RS Aeros the more fun it will be for me.

Tillerman said...

And here's another top sailor sailing an Aero that might help create more interest in the boat. Simon Hiscocks - two time Olympic medal winner in the 49er class will be sailing in the RS Aero UK Nationals at the end of August.

Anonymous said...

I owned a Laser for 38 years, only to "mindless back and forth planing reaches with silly grins the whole time". I neglected her for windsurfing (which I quit to take care of my daughters). I started to sail her again with my daughters but last year the mast pit broke for the second time and I put the mast down.
Looking for a new boat, I found the name of RS Aero. What convinced me was first the videos I watched on youtube and second the feed-back of (Laser) sailors like you.

Tillerman said...

Pleased to hear it Anonymous. I am sure you won't regret buying an RS Aero. And if this blog plays a small part in influencing other sailors to consider, try and buy RS Aeros then I feel like my efforts will have been worthwhile.

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