Having fun with bananas seems to be the theme of this fall’s promotions as companies vie to connect directly to consumers through social media, stickers and contests.

More than 195,000 fans joined Dole’s Facebook page over the summer to profess their love for bananas during the Go Bananas After Dark campaign, said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif.

The multimedia campaign highlighted the banana’s versatility in evening meal preparation and included radio spots, social media, a micro-website publicized on the banana sticker in-store and a P.R. partnership and tour with Char-Broil grills.

As the weather cools down, Goldfield said the campaign’s emphasis will switch from backyard grilling to fall tailgating and eventually to baked recipes for Thanksgiving, Christmas and holiday entertaining.

Goldfield said Dole will be serving a baked version of its grilled Banana S’mores at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2010 on Oct. 15-18 in Orlando, Fla.

Chiquita Brands International also is having fun with its Sticker Design contest. The 18 winners will begin appearing on bunches nationwide next month.

The company invited consumers to create a sticker, then invited fans to vote for the winning designs.

“The contest took off with our Facebook page,” said spokesman Andrew Ciafardini, “and we had thousands and thousands of people voting. It was also mentioned in the New York Times magazine … it really resonated out there.”

Del Monte Fresh Produce spent the summer promoting its Buy a Bunch Lose a Bunch campaign, which encourages consumers to eat more bananas and lose weight. Along with a trimmer figure, Facebook fans were offered a chance to win trips to the Banana Beach Resort in Belize.

Connecting fresh produce with good health is also behind Chiquita’s decision to sponsor segments of “The Dr. Oz Show,” hosted by Mehmet Oz.

Back on the Internet, the public is invited to nominate individuals and teams to be Chiquita Champions by submitting a photo or video of them in action. Winners receive custom athletic gear.

Craig Stephen, Chiquita’s vice president for North America, said social media offers a way to connect with consumers in a way they prefer.

“In the past, we didn’t just choose to put an ad in Sports Illustrated and think we were going to cover everybody,” he said. “Social media goes to a demographic that may under-consume our product, probably (ages) 18 to 35. We want to reach out and let them know what we can offer.”

Chiquita also plans to continue its “Banana Story” television commercial this fall, Stephen said. That campaign has increased brand preference by 4%, he said, and increased unit sales by 10% in each of the 40 markets where the ad has appeared.