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Giant Idaho ‘potato’ on flatbed truck makes 75th anniversary tour

by Rand Green | September 19, 2011

An artist’s rendition of the giant Idaho ‘potato’ on a truck, currently being built, that will make a yearlong nationwide tour of the United States in celebration of the Idaho Potato Commission’s 75th anniversary.

The year 2012 is the 75th anniversary of the Idaho Potato Commission, and the organization is planning several major events to kick off a yearlong celebration, according to Frank Muir, president of the commission.

One of those major events will be the launching of a yearlong 75th Anniversary Famous Idaho Potatoes Tour featuring a semi-truck with a flatbed trailer carrying a giant replica of an Idaho potato.

A famous souvenir postcard from Idaho depicts a giant potato on the back of a flatbed truck. That image was the inspiration for the tour — the commission decided to “make it come to life” by building an oversized potato onto the back of a big rig and drive it all over the country for everyone to see.

“On this big truck, we will have a huge logo” that has been designed to mark the commission’s 75th anniversary, Mr. Muir told The Produce News Aug. 24. It will also sport the logo of the new Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which is being launched this year; the Heart Check Mark, which the American Heart Association has just recently approved for use on all Idaho potatoes; and the logo for Meals on Wheels.

“We are going to be promoting Meals on Wheels,” as well as Idaho potatoes, through the tour, Mr. Muir continued. “We are going to donate $100,000 to Meals on Wheels, put the Meals on Wheels logo on the big truck, and talk about Meals on Wheels and do local promotions with them wherever we travel across the country.”

Meals on Wheels “provides over 1 million meals every single day to the elderly and shut-ins,” he said.

The 75th Anniversary Famous Idaho Potatoes Tour will officially launch Dec. 17 at the inaugural game of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Boise State University’s Bronco Stadium in Boise, ID. Competing in that game will be a team from the Western Athletic Conference and one from the Mid-Atlantic Conference. The big truck with the giant Idaho potato will be in the parking lot before and during the game “so ESPN cameras can film it and put it on national television.” It will then “start rolling across the country” and travel “the whole year,” making stops in all parts of the nation from New York and Florida to the West Coast, he said.

The overall theme of the Idaho Potato Commission’s promotional programs for the 2011 crop and the 2011-12 marketing season is the organization’s Diamond Jubilee, “and everything we are doing” for the 2012 fiscal year that starts with the 2011 harvest “is tied to reinforcing that anniversary and promoting the strength of the [Idaho] brand,” said Mr. Muir.

The launch of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, formerly called the Humanitarian Bowl, is one of several “big” things the commission is doing to make a big splash for its 75th anniversary. The press conference at which the bowl game was announced generated more than 116 million media impressions across the country, he said.

Throughout the college football season, the commission will continue its partnership with Boise State University as well as with the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID, which was initiated last year. As part of that partnership, the commission aired its new television spot featuring fitness guru Denise Austin, spokesperson for Idaho Potatoes, nationwide on ESPN during Boise State’s opening game of the season against Georgia in Atlanta. Fifth-ranked Boise State won that game 35-21.

During the college football season, the potato commission will have the opportunity to sponsor “a marquee game” in Boise State’s Bronco Stadium in Boise and another in the University of Idaho’s Kibbie Dome in Moscow, ID.

“The marquee game for Boise State will be opposite [Texas Christian University] on Nov. 21,” Mr. Muir said. “We expect to have the ‘Grown in Idaho’ seal” on the famous blue turf of Bronco Stadium.” For other games, there will be signage on the sidelines, in the end zone and outside the stadium. But for the marquee game, “we get it right on the turf.”

The Boise State-TCU game “could be very big for us in terms of national coverage, and we have been leveraging Boise State the last few years, riding the blue wave, so to speak,” he said. In that game, as well as in the marquee game at the Kibbie Dome, “we will also get a national TV ad and radio ads as well.”

The marquee game at the University of Idaho will be Oct. 8 against Louisiana Tech. “That happens to be Ag Days and homecoming” as well for the U-Idaho Vandals.

Again this year, the commission will be passing out “spud hats” at the games. The potato-shaped hats have the logo of the Idaho team on one side and the “Famous Potatoes Grown in Idaho” logo on the other side. “We have given out nearly 30,000 of those so far over the years. They have become quite iconic at all of our Boise State games, and especially the bowl game.”

Through its 75th Anniversary Famous Idaho Potatoes tour, its college football tie-ins and other activities, the commission is looking for “loads of publicity” during the 2011-12 marketing season Mr. Muir said.

In 2009-10, “we generated 1.5 billion impressions,” which seemed an impressive number at the time. But during the 2010-11 season, that figure was surpassed dramatically, as the commission generated 4 billion impressions. “We had an incredible year and just got all sorts of publicity.”

For 2011-12, “we want to build on that in our public relations effort” and expect to go “even beyond that,” Mr. Muir said.