Although the theme might imply it, actor Tom Hanks isn’t scheduled to be part of the festivities.
“Big,” the title of one of Hanks’ most popular films, is also the theme of the Idaho Potato Commission’s 75th anniversary celebration, and the Eagle-based commission is taking it seriously. The group has plans for the world’s biggest potato, a new college bowl game and a national TV campaign.
Denise Austin, U.S. fitness celebrity and spokeswoman for the commission, stars in a new commercial set in an eastern Idaho potato field. The fodder for the commercial is the recent American Heart Association certification of Idaho potatoes as heart healthy.
“To qualify, Idaho potatoes meet the requirements for saturated fat and cholesterol content, which is zero for both,” said Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the commission. “This reinforces our strong nutrition message.”
The American Heart Association’s health check also will be available to Idaho shippers for their bagged potatoes. Wal-Mart is already on board, working with an Idaho shipper to start receiving the heart association-checked bags, Muir said.
This is the fifth year for a national TV ad for the commission, but this year commercials will air on network TV in key markets — an expansion from the spot markets of the last four years’ campaigns.
The commission also has continued its partnership with Boise State University football this year and added a relationship with the University of Idaho’s football program. There will be Idaho potato signs in both stadiums, as well as media tie-ins like last year’s YouTube videos of Boise State football players carrying sacks of Idaho potatoes during workouts.
The commission is also the title sponsor of a new bowl game, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The game will be played Dec. 17 at the Boise State stadium, and will match up the top team in the Western Athletic Conference and the Mid-American Conference. The commission has signed on to sponsor and name the bowl, formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl, for six years.
Muir said the bowl game is important for the commission because many of the teams in these conferences are in key markets for Idaho potatoes, including Ohio and New York.
The bowl game also will serve as the kick off for the commission’s 75th Anniversary Famous Idaho Potato Tour. Muir said the organization is recreating an iconic Idaho postcard that features a giant potato on the back of a truck with the tagline, “We grow them big here in Idaho.”
“We’re bringing the postcard to life,” Muir said. “We’re building the world’s largest potato, and we’re going to wheel it across the country.”
The display will feature a quick-response code that sends consumers to a website with the tour’s scheduled locations, so they can virtually or literally follow it across the country. The commission has also set a goal to raise awareness for Meals on Wheels, a service that distributes meals to those who can’t get out for food.
Muir said the commission plans to promote the tour on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Although it kicks off in December, most of the tour is scheduled for the spring.
On Nov. 12, the commission also is sponsoring the Boise State/Texas Christian University football game set to air in ESPN. To hype the game and Idaho potatoes, the commission plans to participate in national radio and TV advertising, as well as distribute “spud hats” at the game.