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State Wildlife Agencies Convene in Atlanta for 2024 RBFF State Marketing Workshop

State Wildlife Agencies Convene in Atlanta for 2024 RBFF State Marketing Workshop

The three-day event brought together marketing experts and wildlife agencies nationwide to learn more about marketing trends, (R3) initiatives and how to keep bringing more diversity to boating and fishing.

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Nearly 200 delegates representing 48 states and the District of Columbia gathered in Atlanta for RBFF’s annual State Marketing Workshop. Attendees learned more about states' best practices for recruiting, retaining, and reactivating anglers and, for the first time, joined an (R3) Expo at the event.

The Workshop welcomed marketing and communications experts who discussed artificial intelligence, social media, customer retention and other crucial marketing components for a three-day event that has become an annual think tank for people charged with recruiting, retention, and reactivation (R3) of anglers and boaters to conserve our waterways nationwide.

Throughout breakout sessions, presentations, and roundtables, the attendees engaged and participated in Q&As and had opportunities to make connections and share best practices among the states and DC.

Nevada Department of Wildlife Boating Coordinator Aaron Meier was among the throng of attendees in Atlanta. A repeat visitor, Meier said he often leaves the Workshop with innovative ideas for his team back home.

“Every time you come here, you think you know what everybody is doing, but every time there are four or five people talking about something new they are doing in their state,” Meier said. “This year, the whole presentation on A.I. made me realize that I cannot ignore it anymore. This is clearly what we are all going to be doing very soon, so I am heading back to get all caught up on A.I.”

According to RBFF Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications Stephanie Vatalaro, the Workshop began as a small, organic group of around twenty individuals. In the years since it has grown into a can’t-miss event for state wildlife agencies.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth,” said RBFF President and CEO Dave Chanda. “It’s become a really valuable and an essential part of how we connect the states and get better at R3.”

In 2021, fishing gained 11.6 million anglers but lost fourteen million anglers. Fishing participation from 2010 to 2021 rose from about forty-five million to 52.4 million. However, according to RBFF data, 25-33% of fishing license purchasers do not renew their license the following year. Additionally, 40-50% of boat owners do not continue to own a boat after five years.

Experts say growth in fishing and boating rests on new audiences to the sport, highlighting women. Combined, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQ and anglers with disabilities represent more than $3 trillion in disposable income. At this year’s Workshop, state agencies in Utah, Florida and Kansas highlighted their efforts to reach out to more diverse communities, spotlighting their efforts in a collaborative discussion with peers attempting to do the same.

“I love the effort states are making to be more inclusive and the tools and techniques they are using to do that, especially on a low budget,” said RBFF Sr. Manager of State Marketing Joanne Martonik. “States here share their own resources with each other. The networking they do means they leave here with ideas that they can implement in their state. If they struggle, they know there is someone out there that can stand them up and help them succeed in what they are doing.”

For 2025, RBFF hopes to bring a full contingent of participant states and DC. The 2025 Workshop will be held February 24-26 in Baltimore, Maryland. “RBFF has been doing this for more than a dozen years now,” said Chanda. “Every year, it gets bigger and better.”

Recordings from all presentations of the 2024 State Marketing Workshop are available now on RBFF’s YouTube channel.