EAGLE, Idaho — The Idaho Potato Commission has launched a new national advertising campaign promoting its affiliation with an organization of endurance athletes who raise funds toward adoption fees of foreign-born orphans with Down syndrome.
The nonprofit, Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome, has helped cover adoption fees of about 30 orphans with the genetic disorder. The children mostly come from developing countries, where it’s commonplace for people with Down syndrome to be institutionalized and have short life expectancies.
IPC has been the major sponsor of RODS Racing since 2012, and presented the organization with a $25,000 check Dec. 22 during the Boise-based bowl game it sponsors, called the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The commission has also budgeted $20,000 for the current fiscal year to run RODS-based national TV commercials during three major endurance sporting events.
The first commercial aired Oct. 14 on NBC Sports, during the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The commercial will air again during the rebroadcast of the sporting event beginning at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9. IPC’s commercial will air next April 16, when NPC’s Olympic Network covers the Boston Marathon.
Throughout the week of May 9, IPC has booked eight TV spots on NBC Sports for the Amgen Tour — a seven-stage bicycle race from Sacramento to Pasadena, Calif. IPC debuted its RODS commercial on ESPN last December during its bowl game.
“By tying in with elite runners, it reinforces that potatoes are good for you — loaded with potassium, vitamin C and micronutrients that are important for runners,” said IPC President and CEO Frank Muir.
Athletes must donate or fundraise $1,000 per year for the privilege of wearing a RODS jersey in events. Muir personally donned the jersey during when he ran the IPC-sponsored Famous Idaho Potato Marathon in Boise two years ago to celebrate his 60th birthday.
In IPC’s consumer testing, the partnership with RODS Racing resonating strongly with the commission’s target audience of women between ages 25 and 54 with children living at home.
“They love the fact that we take some of our funds and try to help families that are really in need of help who desire to adopt high-needs children,” Muir said.
Officials within the potato industry have also been supportive of RODS. Doug Cole, with J.R. Simplot Co., and Trace Dandrea, of McCain Foods, both represented RODS this year in the Boston Marathon, the Ironman 70.3 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the half marathon at the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon and a triathlon. They were also scheduled to race together on a RODS relay team Oct. 29 during the Onward Shay Boise Marathon.
Dandrea has founded a spin-off organization, called RODS Jr., devoted to including children with disabilities in school assemblies, activities and sporting events. His group hosted a youth triathlon in Boise on Aug. 5, which drew 150 participants, including 20 children with disabilities. Olympic cycling gold medalist Kristin Armstrong also made an appearance.
Cole noted endurance athletes commonly carry boiled potatoes during their races for a quick energy boost.
“This (sponsorship) demonstrates to a national audience that not only are potatoes healthy, but also the people who grow them and process them are great people,” Cole said.