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Gone fishing: why marketers should be loading up their tackle boxes

Tying into fishing is chum for a variety of US consumers.

Lockdown drove a new, diverse generation of fishing fans out of their homes and onto the water. Now it’s time for marketers to hook into an old favorite pastime, according to new trend data.

With fishing season set to begin in earnest next month in many parts of the US, millions of Americans are fantasizing about the moment the first bass will strike their lure.

During lockdown, interest in fishing reached new levels and new demographics as people looked for fresh air, fun and the allure of catching the big one. Three million more fishing licenses were sold in the US last year compared to 2019 — this accounted for 40% increase in sales, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. And 90% of new anglers say they plan on sticking with the sport.

Now the buzz is building as Reddit’s r/fishing community recently saw a +220% spike in unique views. The top post is from a member who shared how the pandemic paved the way for him to start fishing. “It’s fascinating just looking at the posts and the diversity of the people,” says Reddit’s head of partner insights and research, Dan Gould. “It’s one of the old school hobbies that has become popular during the year of Covid. There’s a common thread that fishing is great because it’s rejuvenating, relaxing and you can be safe.”

MTN Dew is one of the brands looking to make a splash with a series of fishing promotions launched last week. The “Hook the big one golden fishing can” game takes the Willy Wonka approach of offering 50 golden cans in select packs. Winners who find the special cans receive prizes including a 2021 Phoenix Bass boat and a virtual meet and greet with pro bass angler Gerald Swindle.

Dew “Lost lure insurance” dangles $25 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards for 1,000 consumers who tweet a picture of their favorite lure along with the @MountainDew and #DEWLostLureSweepstakes.

The efforts are part of the brand’s new “Go out and Do” tagline which will promote outdoor activities nationally and locally. A new national TV spot is set to debut and the fishing promos are being touted by local radio, Gas Station TV and micro-influencers in the space including Swindle.

Kathy Kennedy, senior director of marketing, PepsiCo Beverages North America says tying up Dew with fishing was grounded in its consumer insights. “During the time of Covid, people were even more excited about the outdoors. The internal statistics we’ve seen show the popularity of fishing, specifically, exploding.” The outdoor-themed push is meant to appeal to Dew's sweet spot target audience of Millennials who are just starting families.

Top retailer Bass Pro Shops, meanwhile, is looking to capitalize on the surge in fishing both in terms of its advertising and a major acquisition. Last month, it launched its first-ever Super Bowl ad. The spot says: “The great outdoors are wide open and are calling us like never before.” The tagline reads: “Let’s get back to nature. We’re all one family in the great outdoors.” This builds off of its momentum, at the end of last year, when it acquired competitor Sportsman’s Warehouse for a reported $800 million. This gives the chain a stronger presence in the western United States adding to Bass Pro Shops already formidable hold on the market having acquired Cabela’s three years ago.

At the same time, one of its primary competitors, Dick’s Sporting Goods, just reported record sales growth. It saw a 19.3% increase in Q4 same-store sales. Among the trends contributing to its success, per the company, was a shift to outdoor activities including fishing.

All of these factors are part of an overarching movement to return to life outside of our homes, says Reddit’s head of creative strategy, Will Cady. “Whether it’s the popularity of fishing, traveling or other trends we are seeing right now, there's clearly a desire to step out into these IRL [in-real-life] experiences.”

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