What Are You Eating?

Marketing potatoes as what they are: a high-performance food

Published online: Feb 01, 2019 Articles
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This article appears in the February 2019 issue of Potato Grower.

What are you eating?

As a potato industry member, I am sure your answer is potatoes. But what if you are a competitive athlete? As a result Potatoes USA’s new performance strategy, the answer is increasingly becoming “potatoes.” The “What Are You Eating?” campaign is positioning potatoes as a real food that leads to real performance.

This campaign is being directed toward competitive athletes (people who work out at least three times a week and who participate in individual or team competitions) and the nutrition influencers they listen to (trainers, coaches, sports dietitians, active lifestyle bloggers and elite athletes. To create a moment of re-evaluation, where consumers look at potatoes in a whole new way, we must create a broad conversation about the nutritional benefits of potatoes, and this must be led by influencers.

A core part of the program strategy is building strategic partnerships with several athletic performance-oriented organizations, each of which is designed to reach a different sector of the athletic influencer audience. Potatoes USA has partnered with SHAPE America to reach a broad audience of K-12 and collegiate physical activity instructors. Partnering with the National Strength and Conditioning Association allows us to reach 49,000 strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers. Through IDEA Health and Fitness Association, nearly 300,000 fitness and wellness professionals are learning how potatoes power performance. We’re reaching over 400,000 coaches, sports RDs and administrators through both the National High School Coaches Association and the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association. To reach the registered dietitian/nutritionist audience, Potatoes USA has partnered with the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Throughout the course of the research leading to the launch of the performance initiative, athletes indicated that they looked toward other successful athletes and coaches for inspiration, motivation and education. To bring potatoes forward as a preferred choice of athletes, Potatoes USA has partnered with a core squad of known and respected athletes across many sanctioning sport bodies, including the USA Olympic Team, USA Track & Field, USA Swimming, USA Wrestling, Ironman Triathlon and others.

Besides being incredible competitors, each athlete was selected because of his or her ability to be a genuine and authentic ambassador for potatoes. Beyond elite athletes, Potatoes USA has also partnered with a collection of social media influencers who are rooted in fitness and nutrition. This group, comprised of personal trainers and other fitness professionals, have large social media followings and have been leveraged to bring forward positive potato nutrition stories to help shape and impact the way in which performance athletes train and eat. 

As the official performance vegetable and event partner of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Potatoes USA is reaching hundreds of thousands of competitive athletes and race day spectators via both digital and physical activations. Potatoes USA has engaged with athletes at three races—in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Antonio—with a fourth to come in San Francisco in April. The activation includes two days of athlete education and potato sampling at the pre-race Health & Fitness Expo, as well as an interactive “What Are You Eating?” photo booth at the post-race Finish Line Festival. Feedback from athletes has been very positive, with many consumers being excited to learn about the performance benefits of potatoes.

To reach competitive athletes with compelling and engaging performance-forward potato messaging, Potatoes USA is running paid advertising across several platforms and media vehicles, inclusive of social media on Facebook and Instagram. The “What Are You Eating?” campaign encourages athletes to re-evaluate the foods they are using to fuel themselves. The campaign consists of a series of videos depicting athletes competing in running, cycling and soccer while fueling with potatoes to perform at their best. In addition to the videos, there are many messages running across social media with compelling nutrition and preparation information to inspire athletes to fuel with potatoes.

As part of the overarching “Potatoes Fuel Performance” strategy, Potatoes USA partnered with leading publications—Triathlete, Women’s Running and Competitior Running—to inspire and educate competitive athletes on how and why they should fuel with potatoes to achieve their personal bests. These partnerships, which include online advertising, articles, video content and email marketing, are being driven by two key influencers, Allan Lim and Jessica Cerra, both accomplished cyclists. Lim is a sports scientist and coach for elite U.S. cycling teams, as well as the founder of Skratch Labs, a leading sports nutrition company. Cerra is a professional cyclist, exercise physiologist and sport nutritionist who not only competes at the highest level, but also works professionally to create nutritious, high-performance food for athletes. Both Lim and Cerra created a series of videos highlighting potato preparations that are running across the publications’ sites as well as on social media.

Potatoes USA has also officially launched Team Potato, a community of athletes who train and compete fueled by potatoes. Each team member receives a Team Potato welcome kit in the mail with instructions for continued participation. Ongoing sharing of their Team Potato athletic experiences on social media earns participants Team Potato gear as they continue to level up. Industry members are encouraged to join Team Potato as well.

Through these activities, Potatoes USA is changing the way many consumers think about potatoes and increasing potato consumption for athletic performance. But to truly make an impact and have potatoes recognized as the performance vegetable, the rest of the potato industry must get involved and promote: Potatoes. Real Food. Real Performance.

To find out how to get involved, go to the “What Are You Eating” hub at www.growers.potatoesUSA.com/what-are-you-eating.