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CHARLESTON, SC -- Looking for new avenues to promote watermelons, the National Watermelon Promotion Board is coming to the crossroads of the world, New York City's Times Square.

At the National Watermelon Association's celebration breakfast and general session Feb. 21, here, the organization announced in a DVD presentation narrated by Gordon Hunt, its director of marketing, that starting in March, a 10-second commercial spot will run every 20 minutes, 18 hours a day for 122 days on the CBS Super Screen in Times Square. About 1.5 million impressions per day are possible during the four-month run, which will total some 6,600 commercials.

"You say you want to be on TV?" Mr. Hunt asked during the presentation. "We're on TV in a really big way." "Building on our success of last year's in-flight watermelon commercial on Continental Airlines, this season we're running a similar campaign on U.S. Airways in February and April," utilizing a 90-second commercial, Mr. Hunt said.

The NWPB is also looking to the Internet to promote watermelons.

"With the Internet becoming more important to consumers, media and health professionals, the NWPB is launching its first-ever official watermelon blog," Mr. Hunt said. "We will continue our efforts to push watermelon information to the full scope of on-line avenues."

Mr. Hunt noted that "another use of the blog will be for crisis-communication support to provide a platform for instant communication for any watermelon crisis situations."

The board's new slogan, "Make Everyday a Picnic with Watermelons," will be on its materials and programs, including the 3,500 press kits that the organization sends out.

It will also unveil a new culinary school tool kit that Mr. Hunt said "will teach the next generation of chefs how to use watermelon in the kitchen in their future restaurant and foodservice jobs."

Mr. Hunt said that the organization is also "dramatically increasing our focus on school foodservice professionals as well. One dietary professional can prescribe watermelons to thousands of patients, and the NWPB is exploring opportunities such as an American Dietetic Association working group to influence these individuals."

Using federal funds from the Marketing Access Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service, the board is working to expand exports into Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom, and it is "looking at potential in Japan."

Mr. Hunt said that Canada is "the first and largest export market ... and is showing steady growth on an annual basis, while Mexico is the newest market."

The board is also looking at U.S. watermelon exports to the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

"Due to the quality and variety of U.S. watermelons, coupled with the strength of the euro and the [British] pound, this is an opportune time to enter the European marketplace," he said.

Summing up the presentation, Mr. Hunt said, "It's going to be another big year for watermelon."
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