Commission president and chief executive officer Frank Muir discussed the group’s plans Aug. 29 at the 85th annual Idaho Grower Shippers Association meeting. The commission’s budget is tied to the amount of assessments from growers, and last year’s season saw 25,000 more acres planted, setting up for lower returns. With lower demand, the state’s potato growers diverted more than 4 million cwt. for cattle feed, and none of that is assessed.
Muir, however, promises the six-figure shortfall won’t be noticed when it comes to the numerous marketing campaigns from the commission.
His advice to the industry: Don’t panic. Stay optimistic.
There are plenty of promotions returning, but even those are seeing a new twist. For example, ESPN acquired the rights to college football’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 21 this year), giving it financial stability and ensuring the game is promoted more than in the past.
“That’s terrific news, it tells you ESPN really believes in this bowl game,” Muir said.
Also, ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox will shoot promos for Idaho potatoes on game days, talking about the brand in different cities throughout the season.
The giant Idaho potato — which will end its second tour of the country in November — is the focus of another TV commercial featuring Caldwell-based potato grower Mark Coombs.
The spot features Coombs and a dog searching for the “missing” truck. The spot was scheduled to air for the first time Aug. 31 during the Boise State vs. Washington football game, and it is scheduled to debut nationally starting in October.
Muir announced a new campaign that includes more than 50 athletes at various marathons and Iron Man events to raise money for Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome.
The athletes, wearing “Powered by Idaho Potatoes” logos, will raise money for the charity, and the commission will match those donations. The charity — known as RODS — seeks U.S. parents to adopt children with Down Syndrome in countries that abandon them to orphanages.
The commission also has a myriad of social media campaigns, including:
- A YouTube contest, the third one from the commission, with a $5,000 grand prize;
- A cookoff pitting 10 well-known chefs against each other, with a $10,000 donation going to the Meals on Wheels location of the winner’s choice;
- A Facebook recipe contest, with 10 winners receiving a “healthy makeover;”
- A $5,000 contest asking youths to design a potato-themed video game; and
- A Pinterest promotion encouraging consumers to send photos and a story about what Idaho potatoes mean to them.
“Potatoes have an emotional link with families, and we’re going to tap into that and really get people to share their stories,” Muir said.
In retail, the Potato Lovers Month promotion is gaining a lot of steam, with more than 4,000 participating last season, including Wal-Mart locations. Plans are to expand the February campaign into Mexico and the Caribbean. The commission also has a new cross-promotion partner with Hormel, Muir said.