The Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission will combine the old with the new as it works to boost consumption of the state’s 2009 table grape crop.


The organization will continue the campaign launched last year to establish brand awareness for California table grapes worldwide, said Jim Howard, vice president.


“The look and the feel (of this year’s campaign) are very similar to what we had last year,” he said.


The campaign emphasizes the California origin, history and heritage of California grape growers.


However, the commission also has set out on an ambitious undertaking to make California grapes synonymous with baseball.


“Grapes by their season and by their nature are a nice fit for baseball,” Howard said.


The commission is conducting a pilot project with the San Francisco Giants making grapes available in three locations at the club’s ballpark this summer.


Grapes went on sale at the Giants’ AT&T Park in late May, Howard said.


Jordan Jones, a Little League player from Fresno, threw out the first pitch on behalf of Grapes from California on May 27, while the park announcer told fans that fresh grapes from California were on sale at the park.


The program is supported with signs behind home plate promoting California grapes, and a T-shirt day is scheduled for early August.


The first 20,000 fans will get a free T-shirt with a California grapes logo.


The commission also plans to work with a Northern California retailer and conduct a display contest to encourage produce managers to tie in table grapes and the Giants.


Howard hopes the program will be so successful that grapes eventually will be linked with baseball at stadiums nationwide.


“We’re tracking all of the sales numbers so that we can have the data we need for a case study to take out to other ballparks all around the country,” he said.


Howard wants to establish an association between baseball and table grapes among baseball fans everywhere, starting at the Little League level.


Meanwhile, the foundation for the commission’s awareness campaign for California grapes will be advertising in consumer magazines, as it was last year; however, this year the magazine mix will change to include publications such as Family Circle, O and Women’s Health.


The magazines will reach more than 98 million consumers, Howard said.

Magazine ads again will be backed up by Starlight internally lighted billboards placed in retailers’ parking lots.


As part of its rebranding effort last year, the commission redesigned its Web site and continued to work on it throughout the year, Howard said.


“Now, it is a completely new site with a lot of new information on health and nutrition, and easier-to-navigate sections for retailers, for foodservice and growers and shippers,” he said.


The commission once again called on Bob Greene, who developed The Best Life Diet, to conduct a satellite media tour, in which he touts the nutritional benefits of grapes and tells why they are a “healthful choice and a natural part of his Best Life Diet,” Howard said.


Instead of broadcasting from a vineyard, like last year, Greene moved into the produce department of a supermarket.


Finally, the commission will again offer traffic report radio spots in up to 36 markets and include tie-ins with local retailers.