State Parks analyzes effectiveness of boater marketing

Surveys try to determine whether campaigns are reaching boaters and influencing their behaviors.

SACRAMENTO—California State Parks, and its Division of Boating and Waterways, hopes its marketing campaign to boaters is altering their behavior for the better. The marketing campaigns have been urging boaters to use life jackets, engage in clean vessel practices and obtain their California Boater Card.

Jolene King, a member State Parks’ marketing department said her team conducted a series of surveys to determine whether boaters were engaged and influenced by the agency’s advertisements. Responses were collected each year since 2016, according to a presentation King made at the Feb. 14 Boating and Waterways Commission meeting in Sacramento.

What did boaters learn from the campaign? Were there any behavioral changes? These were the questions State Parks hoped to answer in its research.

The marketing campaign targeted power boaters (60 percent), paddlers (20 percent) and anglers (20 percent).

King also talked to commissioners about the department’s life jacket awareness campaign, which has been in play for at least 14 years.

“We know life jackets are the number one way we can reduce boating deaths on the water,” King told commissioners.

Boaters were asked whether they saw or heard of any advertising on boating safety or life jackets within a six-month stretch for 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2019.

The department’s clean vessel program caters to power boaters. King says the campaign, similar to the life jacket program, reached more than half of the target audience for each year since 2016.

Survey results specifically showed 52 percent of respondents saw or heard of a boating safety or life jacket campaign, when asked in 2016. Positive replies increased in 2017 (58 percent) and 2018 (61 percent), before dipping to 57 percent in 2019.

Did the department’s advertisements on personal flotation devices (PFDs) influence boaters to actually wear life jackets? The responses to this question were also positive, with 86 percent of responders saying they were influenced to wear life jackets by State Parks advertising in 2016. The positive responses jumped to 91 percent in 2017 before dipping to 86 percent “yes” in 2018 and 84 percent in 2019.

State Parks staff analyzed the responses a little more closely for 2019; 86 percent of power boaters, according to the 2019 survey, said the department’s advertising influenced them to wear a life jacket. Only 80 percent of paddlers, according to the 2019 survey, confirmed the state’s advertising influence them to wear a PFD.

Department staff also asked if power boaters saw advertising campaigns on the state’s app promoting pumpout stations.

Boaters were specifically asked: “Do these ads influence you to not dump sewage into the water?” Nearly 90 percent of boaters asked this question said they did see such marketing in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The number of boaters who saw the department’s campaigning on pumpouts dipped to 80 percent in 2019.

At least 54 percent of survey respondents, in 2016, said they recalled hearing or seeing a “keep California waterways clean” advertisement within the previous six months. The “yes” responses to the same question jumped to 63 percent in 2017 and held there in 2018. The 2019 survey revealed 59 percent of respondents saw or heard a “keep California waterways clean” advertisement within the previous six months.

King said the drop off in positive responses in the 2019 surveys for life jacket and clean vessel awareness were due to the department’s budget cuts.

She added 81 percent of visitors landed on the website via their cellphones.

The Boat California mobile app, meanwhile, has about 17,800 total downloads, according to King.

The commission, in a separate action, re-elected Virginia Madueño as chair. Katherine Pettibone was elected as vice-chair; she succeeded Doug Metz.



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  • March 26, 2020 at 10:53 am

    Always support efforts on Boating Safety, when will we have a statewide solution to dispose of expired marine flares?



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