Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.
How to market GA to active, lifestyle-conscious adults? It seems there are more and more co-promotions and linkages with other activities. Post-Sun ’n Fun, Florida’s Fantasy of Flight offered “Mustangs and Mustangs,” the iconic cars (from Ford) and the hero airplanes (from World War II.) At the Tavares seaplane base northwest of Orlando, it was “Seaplanes, Trains and BBQ.” If ya’ can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
It pays to associate General Aviation with things people like or could see themselves using GA to do. Marketers of upscale goods often display at signature events attracting qualified crowds – big golf tournaments, ritzy car shows and such. BMW once offered test drives at AOPA EXPO.
In Tavares, people and airplanes got together at the city’s new seaplane base because of BBQ! Turnout was good; the BBQ was great. Entertaining over-water aerobatics concluded with superb work by Patty Wagstaff in an early-season performance. “Man, she’s good!” was the general commentary from BBQ fans.
What was good in competitive BBQ was none other than Big Papa Hillis. He’s Florida, Alabama and Georgia state champ and two-time grand champion of the National BBQ Festival. Tavares economic director (and certified BBQ judge) Bill Neron attracted BBQ’s best from all over to tempt the crowd. Big Papa’s booth was a favorite: Stuffed hogs on display drew them in for many a souvenir photo with The Champ.
With challenging times and changing tastes, combination events and co-promotions boost marketing power. It makes sense. Let’s do more. General Aviation isn’t the drawing card it once was. Gotta sell the concept anew! For that, we need a crowd. And whether through BBQ, classic cars, motorcycles, boats and RVs, oval track racing or aerobatics, let’s attract the public with what they already know they like – then work from there.
Story and photos © 2011 Drew Steketee All Rights Reserved