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Walk the boat show floor in comfy Crocs

The manufacturer of the ubiquitous footwear is setting up Test Drive Stations at a dozen leading shows

The manufacturer of the ubiquitous footwear is setting up Test Drive Stations at a dozen leading shows

Crocs. You see them everywhere. Heck, you probably own a pair.

The quirky, lightweight, colorful shoes have helped changed the course of boating footwear, and the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association has taken advantage of this popularity, partnering with Crocs for Test Drive Station promotions at 12 of its boat and sport shows this year.

“We’ve had a little history with them,” says Steve Borg, sponsorship sales manager for NMMA. “I remember they had a booth at one of the first shows we ever did in 2002 in Florida. I was in a marketing meeting last summer, and a representative from Crocs talked about how they really got their start at boat shows, and now they are part of NASCAR and Major League Baseball. But they wanted to go back to their roots with the boating industry.”

Crocs were developed in Boulder, Colo., in 2002, and by 2003 were a hit with boaters primarily because of how light and comfortable they are. (They also have slip-resistant, non-marking soles.) Now the affable crocodile on each of the shoes has become instantly recognizable.

“We decided to do a promotion for the shows where there would be a booth set up like a bowling alley, where people could leave their shoes, get a ticket, and wear a pair of Crocs for the day,” says Borg. “At the end of the day participants can either purchase the shoes or decide on a different style and color they might want,” or simply hand them back. “They have over 40 different styles of shoes, so if they don’t have specifically what you are looking for, you get a ticket that is good for free shipping from the Web site.”

Show-goers aren’t required to wear socks when they test-drive the shoes, since Crocs are made to be anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Upon return, each pair is sprayed with an anti-bacterial cleaner, and those shoes are never sold. If the wearer wants to buy a pair, he or she is directed to a separate booth to make the purchase.

Borg says the reaction from those who tried Crocs at the New York National Boat Show in late December and early January was “fantastic.”

“Another nice feature about being able to test drive the Crocs is that a lot of dealerships will not allow people on the boats with shoes, but they’ll allow them with the Crocs because of their unique sole,” says Borg.

Crocs range in price from $30 for the basic beach slip-ons to $80 for leather lace-ups. In addition to shoes, Crocs also offers an extensive line of sports and outerwear, which is included in the boat show displays. Borg says retailers have been handing out freebies, such as key chains, to encourage the Crocs-deprived to see what they’re missing.

“My wife and daughter have quite a few pairs, but before this I had never tried them,” says Borg. “As part of the partnership, NMMA employees got free pairs, and I wore mine for the first time at the New York Boat Show. They were great. I was standing 10 to 12 hours a day, but my feet felt so much better than anything else I’d tried in the past.”

NMMA boat shows that will feature the Crocs Test Drive Station include the Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail, Feb. 14 to 18; Norwalk International In-Water Boat Show, Sept. 18 to 21; and the Tampa Boat Show (dates to be announced). For more information on Crocs, visit .