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Barriers to Water Sports – Arkenford (Qualitative Focus Groups)

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Image of water sports on a lake

British Marine represents the interests of more than 1600 members in the leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry, including boat builders, chandlers, brokers, marinas, passenger boats and engine manufacturers. Members were concerned that customer numbers were declining, that leisure boating had a “stuffy” image and that fewer young people were interested in taking part. In response to these concerns, British Marine launched the Future Customers project in 2016 to take an in-depth look at trends which would affect its consumer markets. Market research specialist Arkenford was asked to do a market segmentation.

The Challenge

A nationwide survey of more than 2,000 people was planned, but firstly Arkenford had to ensure it included the right questions. To that end it wanted to explore further the thinking of two key groups – active outdoor types who had never tried any water sports and those who had previously enjoyed water sports in the past five years but had given up for any reason. It was hoped that, by holding guided discussions in small focus groups of eight people, researchers could tease out all the angles which would have to be addressed in the survey if it was to give the most meaningful results. The challenge was how to find these people.

The Solution

Protel Fieldwork was selected by Arkenford for the task because of its excellent track record of finding a good balance of focus group candidates. For the British Marine study, it had to find the two main categories described above, with a spread across age groups, occupations, sex and those living inland or at coastal locations. Protel achieved this by sending field researchers out to Manchester, the Midlands, Guildford and Southampton to stop people in the street and ask them to answer a screening questionnaire. People were quizzed about how often they participated in various water sports and a long list of mainly outdoor activities such as golf, fishing, cycling, football, tennis, horse riding, climbing, skiing, motorsports and mountain biking, as well as aspects of their background. Protel’s field interviewers had to recognise immediately those who fitted the correct criteria and invite them to join a focus group for a small incentive. Approximately 25 people had to be stopped on average for every suitable person found. Anyone who admitted to a fear of water, or an inactive lifestyle, was ruled out.

The Result

Protel Fieldwork successfully recruited people for Arkenford’s focus groups, providing a good balance of candidates and therefore providing a sound basis for Arkenford to draw out meaningful insights from the discussions that crucially informed the wider nationwide survey.

Six focus groups were held, three for lapsed participants in water sports, and three for active people who regularly took part in a wide range of other sports including football, rugby, martial arts, mountain biking, skiing, horse riding, motorsports, fishing and golf but not water sports. These were held in Manchester, Guildford, Southampton and the Midlands. A total of 48 people took part.

One of the surprises during Protel’s screening selection was the high number of people who were afraid of going on the water at all, or who were unsure about where it was safe to do so. All of these people were excluded from the focus groups.

Ben Moxon, MD of Arkenford, said: “Protel delivers what we want and we have a strong relationship with them. We trust their recruitment ability. For the focus groups it was important that we got the right cross-sections of people and Protel certainly delivered those.”

The findings of the focus group were used to help Arkenford construct the questionnaire for a larger survey carried out nationwide in Spring 2018.