This year’s big Vidalia onions promotional campaign has country music stars promoting the sweet onions through radio spots and online videos.

The Vidalia Onion Committee, Vidalia, Ga., in partnership with Universal Music Group, is promoting onions and country music. The American Favorites: Sweet Vidalias & Country Music advertising campaign features an online consumer jingle-writing contest, free song downloads, a retail display contest, country-music themed onion packaging and point-of-sale materials featuring major country music artists Gary Allan, Billy Currington, Vince Gill and Ashton Shepherd.

“Country music and Vidalias share a Southern heritage and broad-based national appeal,” said Wendy Brannen, executive director of the committee.

POS materials include display toppers, recipe pads, and shelf and price cards. Retailers can contact their Vidalia onion suppliers to order kits. Downloadable in-store advertisements also are available on the committee’s website, When a consumer purchases a country-music themed package of Vidalia onions, he or she can go online to download a free song from Universal Music’s catalog of about 400,000 songs, Brannen said.

The promotion began May 1, and the Vidalia Onion Festival helped get things rolling with a live concert by country music artist Kellie Pickler on April 30. The Vidalia Onion Committee was a sponsor and it displayed high-graphics onion bins filled with onions on stage during Pickler’s concert, Brannen said.

Gill recorded radio spots about the jingle-writing contest for in-store radio, and Allan is recording consumer radio spots discussing the contest and referring listeners to the committee’s website, Brannen said. Gill’s in-store radio spots are expected to be used by retailers in select markets in the eastern U.S. Interested retailers can contact the committee’s office, Brannen said.

Shepherd is recording a video about the jingle contest. The video is expected to be posted on the committee’s site this month.

The consumer jingle-writing contest opened May 1. “Vidalia onions are a flavor so sweet, it’s something to sing about!” proclaims the contest website, Contestants write their own Vidalia onion jingles, make videos of their songs, and then upload them to the site for judging.

Suggested jingle themes include Vidalia’s sweet flavor, favorite Vidalia recipes or memories and Vidalias’ seasonal availability.

The grand-prize winner will be awarded a Nashville VIP Vacation Package, which is a three-day, two-night trip for two, including airfare, hotel, Grand Ole Opry tickets and savings on entertainment in Nashville. A first-prize winner will receive a gift card worth $1,000 and two second- prize winners will each receive four country music CDs.

A Universal Music executive or artist is to be on the panel of judges. The grand-prize winner will be chosen by the panel, but the first-prize winner will be chosen by voting by online viewers.

The committee is advertising the country music campaign through a video that runs every 20 minutes on CBS’s 26- by 20-foot Super Screen on 42nd Street in New York City’s Times Square. The video is expected to play about 5,000 times during its three-month run. The video ads in April reminded viewers that Vidalia season was fast approaching. The May and June ads promote the committee’s new country music campaign.

A retail display contest runs May 1 through Aug. 5. Produce managers can enter online by uploading photos of their displays. The grand prize is a trip for two to Nashville. It’s the same as the jingle-writing contest’s grand prize.

Displays will be judged based on size and location of display, creativity, quality, use of point-of-sale materials, use of secondary displays and proper stacking of onions. The contest is open to U.S. retail supermarket companies and subsidiaries.

Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga., is eagerly embracing this season’s country music program.

While last year’s Shrek promotion appealed to younger children, Delbert Bland, president of Bland Farms, said this season’s promotion might appeal to a broader age range.

“Kids, mamas, daddies and the grandmas like country music,” Bland said.

In early May, Bland Farms was shipping Vidalias in the country-music themed bags, Bland said.

Sweet Onion Trading Co., Melbourne, Fla., also is offering the Vidalia Onion Committee’s country-music themed packaging, said Barry Rogers, president and chief executive officer. Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., Wellington, Fla., a subsidiary of A. Duda & Sons Inc., Oviedo, Fla., also will participate in the promotion, said Mark Bassetti, vice president of customer development.

“It’s a great opportunity that follows on the heels of the Shrek promotion,” Bassetti said. “The committee is doing a good job of switching things up.”