The Big Idaho Potato Truck may be coming to a town near you. Or coming back to one.
As part of Idaho Potato Commission’s 75th anniversary celebration, a 70-foot-long semi truck and trailer carrying a 28-foot-long likeness of an Idaho russet potato began touring the country this year, said Frank Muir, commission president and chief executive officer.
The campaign has proved so successful that it will be repeated in 2013, running from about Memorial Day through Labor Day, he said.
“Our traveling tater team tells us that everybody in America wants to take a photo of them,” Muir said. “They feel like they’re celebrities out there.”
The tour has gone viral, with countless people sending the commission photos of themselves standing next to the giant russet, Muir said. Others have posted videos of the giant spud on YouTube.
The truck and accompanying team have visited more than 100 cities in 31 states, generating more than 250 million media impressions.
“This is the most incredible PR event that I’ve ever been a part of,” Muir said.
Tied into the tour is a 30-second, tongue-in-cheek national TV commercial that features Idaho potato grower Mark Coombs wondering where his truck and giant potato disappeared to.
“If you see them, let them know, it’s time to come home,” Coombs laments in one of the ad spots.
Because the Eagle-based commission works with a relatively small advertising campaign, Muir said they like to leverage every opportunity they can.
In addition to the commission’s 75th anniversary logo, the trailer also features the Meals on Wheels and American Heart Association’s Heart Healthy logos.
The IPC is the only state potato group that has taken the steps to apply for and receive the Heart Healthy designation, he said.
The commission also has taken on Meals on Wheels as its charitable partner, donating $100,000 to the organization during 2012. Muir said the commission plans to make the same donation in 2013.
The truck made appearances at the Boise State University versus Brigham Young University football game Sept. 20 and at an Idaho State University football game this fall.
Both are considered marquee games, where the commission will be acknowledged as a primary sponsor and will have stadium signage.
The commission also is in its second of six years as being the title sponsor of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Dec. 16, which pits a Western Athletic Conference football team against a Mid-American Conference Team.
Part of that sponsorship includes stadium signage.
Last year, the commission logged 2.5 million media impressions just from ESPN viewership of that game, Muir said.
Commission spokesperson and fitness guru Denise Austin won’t be seen in TV commercials this year because of the potato truck ads.
Instead, she will be featured in 30-second and 1-minute radio public service announcements that are expected to be heard by 25 million to 50 million listeners.
The commission also plans to beef up its social media presence with food bloggers, Facebook recipe contests, Twitter and a new Pinterest account.
“(Pinterest has) become a very high active social network, and for recipes, it’s perfect,” Muir said