BOISE, Idaho-Idaho agriculture has heightened its presence this season at in-state college football games, seeking to capitalize on the growing popularity of both the sport and Idaho teams.
Newcomers at 2013 Idaho college football pre-game tailgate parties include the Idaho State Department of Agriculture's Idaho Preferred program and the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Marketing Committee.
The Idaho Potato Commission, a long-time partner with Idaho's college football teams, has also launched new campaigns and made additional investments to foster associations between Idaho sports and spuds.
University of Idaho's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is sponsoring the Oct. 5 UI game against Fresno State, in conjunction with the university's annual Ag Days celebration. CHS and Primeland Cooperatives are game sponsors.
At the Ag Days game, Idaho Preferred, in its 10th year of promoting Idaho foods, will feed tailgaters hummus made with northern Idaho garbanzo beans and snacks containing lentils from the region.
On Sept. 7, Idaho Preferred also brought BSU tailgaters Idaho-grown plums, peaches, apples and pears.
"What we heard most often was, 'Wow! Something healthy at a tailgate!'" said the program's manager, Leah Clark.
Idaho Preferred will highlight vegetables prior to the Sept. 28 BSU game, giving away 5,000 free samples of chips made in Boise and salsa made with Idaho onions, beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, jalapenos and Lighthouse dressing made in Sand Point.
The Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Marketing Committee has modeled its tailgating promotion, hosted before every BSU home game, after the popular Food Network program Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri. The committee, in partnership with Weber Grills, challenges teams of special guests to grill their best onion cuisine before thousands of tailgaters.
For the Sept. 28 BSU game, the committee scheduled Gov. Butch Otter to face off against ISDA Director Celia Gould. The committee also grills onion food samples for tailgaters.
The committee's marketing director, Sherise Jones, said onion growers are working with the BSU broncos because of the national attention lavished upon the team in recent years. She was also intrigued by statistics showing women, who tend to make shopping decisions, are now tailgating more often.
Jones said the committee took a "calculated risk" by making a considerable investment in the program. The cost has yet to be finalized. She said the committee should know if the program was worthwhile by the end of the season.
"We're keeping track if our website gets hits after games, if we get food bloggers out there blogging, if we've got Twitter going for us, etc.," Jones said.
This season, IPC has invested $122,000 to sponsor a marquee game at both BSU and UI - and will get added attention during UI Ag Days. The contract comes with year-long signage at both stadiums, radio advertising and half-time interviews promoting the commission.
IPC Chairman and CEO Frank Muir said IPC is also investing $50,000 per year, starting this season, to sponsor the UI scoreboard, giving the commission a scoreboard presence at all three Idaho college football stadiums. Furthermore, IPC sponsors a college bowl game based at BSU and has a contract with ESPN sideline analyst Heather Cox to produce features on Idaho potatoes in college football communities.
Muir believes fall harvest makes Idaho spuds a goof fit with football season.