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After completing a retail promotion tied to the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament, Mexican producers and exporters of avocados have launched a new campaign hoping to capitalize on the interest created by soccer's World Cup.

Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director for the Avocado Producers & Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán, better known as APEAM, said that the March Madness promotion was designed to keep Mexican avocado sales humming between the Super Bowl in January and the Cinco de Mayo holiday (May 5), which are the two top-selling avocado promotional periods of the year.

APEAM's promotion took place during a five-week period from Feb. 28 to April 5, coinciding with the popular basketball tournament nicknamed March Madness. It included 11 retailers in Texas and was in the form of display contests at each chain, which rewarded the top displays with cash prizes for the produce merchandisers. While APEAM worked heavily with retailers that cater to the Hispanic communities, the promotion was open to all retailers, and there was participation by more conventional retailers.

"It was a big success," said Mr. Escobedo. He said that a look at Mexican avocado sales in four-week increments from January through March showed that during each period, about 60 million pounds of Mexican avocados were exported to the United States. Typically, sales would drop off following the Super Bowl, he said. So the fact that sales remained about the same convinced APEAM that its promotion was successful.

Mr. Escobedo said that Texas is a very good market for Mexican avocados, so that region was the focus of the March Madness promotion. The World Cup promotion, however, will encompass a wider geographic region and include California and Arizona as well as Texas and the Chicago metropolitan area, which he said was another very good market for Mexican avocados.

The World Cup promotion kicked off Monday, May 10, and will last until July 11. "This promotion is aimed specially at the Hispanic community," Mr. Escobedo said. "We know that the Mexican community is going to get very excited about [the] World Cup and will be throwing lots of soccer-watching parties. That is what we are trying to capitalize on."

The promotion is a joint effort with "Coors Light" beer and will again feature in-store displays. Though the promotion officially has already begun, Mr. Escobedo said that the first phase of it is geared toward the opening game of the World Cup, which will pit Mexico against South Africa June 11 in Johannesburg. "Mexican people all over the world are going to be very excited about that game," he said. "We expect there will be lots of parties featuring beer and guacamole."

As an incentive for consumers, APEAM is sponsoring a $1-off coupon toward the purchase of five avocados at participating retail outlets during the promotion. "Research has shown us that the typical avocado purchase by heavy users is three or three-and-a-half. We are trying to get them to increase that to five."

Just as the March Madness promotion required retailers to build Mexican avocado displays, Mr. Escobedo said that the World Cup promotion will specify the use of Mexican avocados. To help with this effort, APEAM does supply point-of-purchase materials specific to the promotion. But Mr. Escobedo knows that California avocados are in the marketplace in large numbers during this time of year, and he said that any avocado sale is good for the entire industry.

"Of course we want to increase all avocado sales, but our goal is to convince consumers to purchase Mexican avocados all year round. We produce 12 months of the year, and we want them to purchase our avocados all year long. Even though California is in the marketplace over the summer months, a look at the last three years shows that more Mexican avocados are sold [in the United States] during the summer months than California avocados."

However, California has a crop twice as large as it did last year, so those numbers may be a bit different.

Mr. Escobedo said that APEAM is an independent marketing organization that predates the Mexican Avocado Importers Association and the Hass Avocado Board. "We were started before those organizations came into existence primarily to fund the [U.S. Department of Agriculture's] phytosanitary program in Mexico."

APEAM survives on assessments from the packers in Michoacán, Mexico, which is where most Mexican avocados destined for the United States are grown. "We work together with MAIA and HAB," he said. "But APEAM is the only group that will be promoting avocados in connection with the World Cup this year."