Shine Sweet Freedom—Brunswick’s Power Play

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Thanks to Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats dealer manager Geoff Tomlinson and Nor-Tech 390 Sport center console owners Pam and Todd Martin, last month I was able to look like a seriously well-connected dude in front of a few dear friends from Indiana, who have a second home in Naples, Fla. Here’s how it all went down.

I had business in Fort Myers that kept me over a weekend, and my friends wanted to take me boating on Sunday. But they don’t own a boat—at least in Florida. (They have a pontoon boat at their summer home on the shores of Indiana’s Lake Wawasee.)  They’re members of the Freedom Boat Club in the area, and they had planned to grab a deckboat for a day of casual cruising.

By acquiring the Freedom Boat Club, Brunswick Corporation will secure a continually growing and refreshed audience for its boat and engine products.

That seemed like a slow-moving slice of hell to me—being more than a little spoiled with unlimited opportunities to enjoy big-dollar go-fast boats—so I called Tomlinson. who, in turn, set us up with the Martins on their pretty 39-footer. Tomlinson, his wife, Katy, and their adorable daughter Mallory joined us for the delightful day, which included lunch on Captiva Island.

At one point during the ride home, we reached almost 60 mph. My Hoosier friends were exhilarated. It’s easy to forget that 60 mph is faster than most people will ever go in a boat.

But before people can discover the joys of speed on the water, they need to get on the water. That’s where the Freedom Boat Club, which was founded in 1989, comes in. In relatively affordable fashion, it gets new people on the water. And getting new people on the water has been the No. 1 challenge faced by the marine industry since I started covering it in the early 1990s.

That fact is not lost on the decision-makers Brunswick Corporation, the publicly traded parent company of Mercury Marine, Sea-Ray and more. And that’s why Brunswick is purchasing the Freedom Boat Club.

According to a press release from Brunswick, Freedom Boat Club, is the largest boat club operator and the premier marine franchisor in the nation. The club and its franchisees “service more than 20,000 members, providing them with access to a fleet of nearly 2,200 boats at approximately 170 company-owned or franchised locations across 30 states, Canada and Europe.”

So why wouldn’t Brunswick want to own that? It’s a rhetorical question, of course. Owning the Freedom Boat Club will give Brunswick direct access to showcase its rich portfolio of boats and engines in front of a continually growing audience.

Cynical observers might call it indoctrination. I call it strategic brilliance.

For the record, my Indiana friends are still members of the Freedom Boat Club. They haven’t pulled the trigger on a new Nor-Tech 390 just yet, though they surely can afford to and seemed pretty jazzed about the whole experience. But it wouldn’t surprise me.

And in its acquisition of the Freedom Boat Club, Brunswick has something special on its hands.

 

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