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"We are right in the middle of our joint promotion called 'The Big Hit,'" Jose Luis Obregon, managing director of the Hass Avocado Board, said in an interview with The Produce News Oct. 13. Timed to coincide with Major League Baseball playoffs, the promotion began in late September and was scheduled to continue through late October, a time when significant volumes of Hass avocados from both Mexico and Chile would be in the U.S. market.

The promotion involves "a media buy of $2.1 million," with HAB, the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association and the Chilean Avocado Importers Association participating, Mr. Obregon said.

In addition to the media buy, "which has been well-received," the promotion "also has other components that each association is executing in order to support this media buy," he said.

As for HAB, "we are doing a strong [public relations] push behind this," he said. The PR effort features two spokespeople, one of them a former professional baseball player and the other a celebrity chef.

Ryne Sandberg, a baseball hall of fame member who spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs, "is going to be pitching some avocado recipes to consumers," Mr. Obregon said. "Also, we have a chef by the name of Curtis Stone" who has a TV program called Take Home Chef. He will be promoting the consumption of avocados "during any game day entertaining situation or activity that might be happening."

HAB has "a strong retail component" in support of the "Big Hit" promotion, Mr. Obregon continued. It involves point-of-sale materials "all relating to baseball" as well as a display contest relating to baseball. "We've got very good results," he said, noting that one large national chain asked for point- of-sale materials for all of its stores. "That has been very positive in trying to promote more consumption of Hass avocados during this time period, which is very important because you have multiple supplies."

Chile and Mexico, which both have significant volumes of fruit in the market during the promotion period, each have "a very strong campaign," he said. "But we still think there is a big need for a joint effort, which is what we are doing right now."

Everyone involved is enthusiastic about the promotion, Mr. Obregon said. "But I think that everybody is more enthusiastic about just the level of cooperation we have gotten" with both groups "pooling resources" to push a generic message during "a very important period of time."

Plans are already being formulated for further joint promotions in 2010, and the California Avocado Commission "has expressed interest" in also participating in joint promotions next year, he said. "I believe we are reaching a level of maturity" in the industry "where people can sit down and follow that main objective of increasing consumer awareness and increasing demand for Hass avocados in the United States."

(For more on Mexican avocados, see the Oct. 26, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)