Claim to Fame

Published online: May 07, 2021 Articles Frank Muir, IPC President and CEO
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This column appears in the May 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) has as long history of working with celebrities. We’ve worked with Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island; fitness guru Denise Austin; and Heather Cox, sideline sports reporter for ESPN and NBC. During our long-term relationships with these women, we were able to communicate unique messages about Idaho potatoes to their millions of fans.

Recently, we worked with two well-known men: New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill and Nathan Apodaca, better known as “the Ocean Spray guy,” to specifically boost engagement on social media. The results have been very impressive.

The IPC first worked with Hill in 2018 when his alma mater, the BYU Cougars, played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Idaho native shared a fun video on his social media pages encouraging his friends and followers to tune in to the game. During the 2019 football season, Hill played 10 different positions for the Saints, aptly earning the nickname the Swiss Army Knife of football.

Since Idaho potatoes are considered to be the most versatile vegetable in the produce aisle, working with Hill was a natural decision. In 2019, he shared three posts on his Instagram page communicating important Idaho potato attributes and encouraged his fans to enter a giveaway to win autographed swag. In 2020 the partnership expanded to include videos and digital ads that ran from late December 2020 to early February 2021 and generated close to 3 million impressions. All eyes are on Hill this year. He recently signed a big contract with the Saints and could potentially be the starting quarterback.

In the fall of 2020 we did a small project that generated huge results with Nathan Apodaca, who is known on social media as doggface208. Apodaca, an Idaho potato shed worker, became famous when he posted a video of himself riding his longboard to work while drinking Ocean Spray to the popular Fleetwood Mac song “Dreams.” The video was ranked the second-most popular video on TikTok in 2020 by CNN Business with more than 76.4 million views.

The backstory is that Apodaca filmed the video when his car broke down, and he had to ride his longboard 2 miles to work that morning. It was during harvest, the busiest time of the year, when it’s “all hands on deck.” As we watched Apodaca’s video go viral, we wanted to jump on board and be a part of his newly found fame. We met up with him in his hometown of Idaho Falls and filmed him riding his longboard past the Big Idaho Potato Truck while eating french fries to the popular B-52s song “Private Idaho.” As we hoped, the video was a hit on Instagram and generated more than 3.2 million views and 179,000 likes, along with thousands of positive comments from engaged fans.

Why, how or when a video goes viral is somewhat of mystery. Sometimes a video won’t go viral for weeks or even months after it’s posted. It depends on the content, the timing of its release, its target audience, and what’s going on in the world. Dawn Wells, whom I mentioned earlier, created the IPC’s first social media video in 2008, before social media was even a thing. The video did fairly well when we launched it, but it took about a year for it to go viral. Today, it has close to 12 million views, and is still our most popular video.

Dawn passed away in December. She was a good friend of the IPC and adored by millions around the world. We were fortunate to work with such a kind person who was a big fan of Idaho potatoes. Her vibrant personality, quirky sense of humor and passion for her character Mary Ann will live on through the potato peeling video she filmed in her home 13 years ago.