Beef and baseball are a winning combination in Japan as they are in the United States. To capitalize on that double-header pairing, USMEF recently involved Japanese baseball legend and Oklahoma state Senator Randy Bass in an extremely popular campaign to promote U.S. beef in Japan.
With coordination provided by the Oklahoma Beef Council, USMEF brought the two-time Japanese triple crown winner back to the scene of his spectacular baseball success to serve as headliner for a campaign to promote U.S. beef for yakiniku dishes.
Since Japan expanded access for U.S. beef earlier this year to include product from cattle up to 30 months of age, USMEF-Japan and its partners in the Japanese yakiniku industry have collaborated on a variety of promotional programs to let consumers know that popular U.S. beef – particularly beef tongue – is again being featured in the tabletop-grill cuisine.
As part of the fecent promotion, USMEF offerws baseballs and bats autographed by Bass as prizes in a drawing. To be eligible, consumers had to order the “Randy Bass Menu” at participating yakiniku chains nationwide.
The Oklahoma state senator was the ideal matchup for the promotion: an American slugger who turned Japanese baseball on its ear before retiring from the Hanshin Tigers in 1988. After playing professional baseball in the U.S. for 16 years, including six in the major leagues, he played the final six years of his career with the Tigers of Japan’s Central League. There, he set eight Japanese national records, including winning back-to-back triple crowns and setting a single-season batting average record of .389.
Even after 25 years away, Bass remains an extremely popular figure in Japan. Media coverage of his visit was carried by four daily newspapers, one TV program, seven industry publications and the tabloid Weekly Baseball.
Bass chose to meet first with children in the Tohoku region of Japan that was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in the spring of 2011. USMEF represented the U.S. red meat industry in the region after the disaster, spearheading relief efforts designed to provide hot meals to people displaced from their homes.
During Bass’ visit, a Japanese charity returned the gesture, providing donations from Japanese children to help the Oklahoma residents displaced by a massive tornado earlier this year.
Bass, a wheat and cattle farmer in addition to serving as a state senator, also met with youth baseball teams and, while preparing beef dishes for the children, explained the importance of making protein-rich U.S. beef a part of their training table menu.
“My career as a Triple Crown winner was made by American beef,” Bass told the young athletes. “American beef contains good protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc, which are the best ingredients for athletes’ health.”
“The Japanese yakiniku market is extremely important for the U.S. beef industry,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, senior marketing director for USMEF-Japan. “We deeply appreciate the support from the Oklahoma Beef Council and the participation by Senator Bass to draw attention to this promotion and help accelerate the return of U.S. beef to the market-leading share it enjoyed previously.”
For the first time since 2003, U.S. beef has regained its status as the No. 1 export market for U.S. beef. Through the first seven months of the year, Japan has purchased 142,875 metric tons (315 million pounds) valued at $855.8 million – increases of 57 percent in volume and 43 percent in value versus 2012.