Several years ago, the marketing team I worked with was led by a gentleman who loved to use the quote, “When you’re selling, don’t sell the steak sell the sizzle.” Although celebrity Chef Lynn Crawford was a keynote speaker at Canadian Dairy Xpo, the Dairy Classroom got cooking early with Billy Frey’s on-farm social media presentation. The dynamic Frey is the Senior Vice President of Alltech Ag Network and he really knows how to sell the sizzle. He grabbed attention early with on-line streaming of his presentation and one-liners like, “What happens in Vegas stays on Facebook” which caught and held the attention of the standing room only audience.
Lyons, TVs and Broadcasts – Oh My!
Alltech Ag Network, as envisioned by its founder, Dr. Pearse Lyons, has always been a company built on relationships explains Billy. “We knew if we could build a relationship, we could learn of someone’s problems. Once we knew the problem, we could find a solution. About 2 years ago, we spoke with our friend Jim Host. Jim is known as the grandfather of sports marketing for the programs he and his company (Host Communications) put together for the NCAA. In fact, Jim was just inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, not for his play, but for his contributions to the game, principally setting up the NCAA corporate partner program.” This dream team was primed for what was about to happen.
It’s iHigh Time for Ag
Frey outlines the serendipity. “Jim Host had started a new company called iHigh.com. This was an online TV company that broadcast high school sporting events. The idea was simple: iHigh put the Production Truck that you see at major sporting events into a computer and let the schools broadcast their own games. The schools could generate revenue through advertising, which proved quite profitable. Jim and Dr. Lyons thought “Why not agriculture?” That was the first step and then “Alltech bought the rights to agriculture and began engaging Ag groups (FFA, rodeo organizations, horse shows, etc) to broadcast their events on iHigh.” This was a key and very logical piece according to Frey, “Agriculture has such a great story to tell, and who better to tell it than the participants themselves?”
A Communication Cover-All for Ag
As with any great idea once the pieces start coming together the momentum builds. Frey shares this synopsis of events. “Shortly thereafter we entered into discussions with RFD-TV. Patrick Gottsch, the founder of RFD-TV had been ‘telling ag’s story” for many years and he was looking to move into the online world. Once he met with Jim Host and Pearse Lyons and learned about the technology, a partnership was formed. Now, all RFD-TV content can be found online by going to MYRURALTV.com. Patrick and RFD-TV have given a voice to the smaller events that might not be on network television. Not only do they provide great coverage to their 65 million subscribers, but they also direct them to MYRURALTV.com whereby fans of RFD-TV can watch even more Ag content online.” Social media was on the move and the potential it was facing, meant a lot to Billy Frey.
Frey Gets Plugged In
The timing was right for Frey who had graduated from Centre College in 1998 with a degree in International Economics. He outlines his career path, “From there I worked in a bank. The banking business didn’t enthuse me so I applied for a job with this international animal health company called Alltech. I had never heard of it, but after interviewing, seeing the marketing philosophy, etc, I realized that this is something that I could get into. I’ve been with Alltech for 14 years. When I started we were an $85M company with about 500 people. Now, we should hit about $800M in annual sales with 3000 employees.”
Computer Traffic Increase on the Information Highway
To date we have more than 300 organizations or groups broadcasting live events online. Our traffic continues to grow, as people watch signature events like the FFA National Convention, the National HS Rodeo Finals, and more online. With the world, in particular the world’s youth, watching video online we have seen a 4-fold increase in traffic online.”
Watch! It`s Alive!
Frey confirms that the online Ag content that will be provided by the partnership between Alltech and RFD-TV, utilizing the iHigh.com technology, will continue to grow. “Last year 12 state FFA conventions were broadcast live online. This year, we expect 30 state conventions to be broadcast online. We expect more rodeos, more equestrian competitions, and of course, all the same great RFD-TV content to be available online. No longer does mom and dad have to wonder what’s going on at the FFA Convention. They can tune in. No longer does Grandma and Grandpa have to look at pictures of their grandchild win an award or compete in a rodeo…they can watch it live.”
Technology is Smokin’
As an observer of change Frey joins the rest of us in awe at the rapidly changing social media scene, “The rise and adoption of technology has been first and foremost of the changes I’ve witnessed. The world is at our fingertips, so that leads to infinite possibilities. Consumer attitudes have shifted. Globally we’re taking an interest in what’s in our food and how is it produced. Look at what’s happening in Europe right now with the horse meat situation. People want to know what’s in their food and when they’re duped, they revolt. Along with oxygen and water, it’s one of the three most important things in life.”
Family Matters. They’ve Got Freys with That!
Speaking of important things in life Frey affirms his appreciation for the Alltech philosophy of marketing through education and, he adds, “our goal of helping to feed the world while at the same time educating people as to where their food comes from”. Frey admits that his current role as Senior Vice President of the Alltech Ag Network is his biggest challenge to date but then, in his branded positive style adds,” Like most great challenges, it’s the most rewarding.” Nevertheless it isn’t Frey’s biggest success story, “Personally, in the past 5 years I’ve met the love of my life, gotten married, and last June, became a father to a beautiful baby girl. That’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever done.”
It’s Fast. It’s Instant. It’s Ready to Serve.
There’s another old saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” However, everyone knows that’s where the action is. A few minutes of listening to Billy Frey confirms that social media is the kitchen and you become a believer that this company has also found the “secret ingredient”. Frey looks into the future for us. “I see traceability and value added products coming to the forefront. I want to know who produced this milk I’m drinking and what went into the ice cream or the cheese I’m eating (too much of by the way). Why can’t I just use my phone, scan the carton and see the farmer? I’m in agriculture so I trust those who provide me food. Most people don’t have the good fortune of working in our industry, so they don’t know how milk is made. When they don’t know, they do two things: find out for themselves or assume the worst. Since the internet has given us instant information, people trust whatever comes up first on a Google search. People want to know where their milk comes from, so let’s tell them. We have every reason to do it and zero reasons not to.” The recipe for success!
BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE
Thanks to our look at marketing through the eyes of “Shake Sizzle and Frey” we have learned that, social media is the means whereby, the farm, the farmer and agriculture are no longer anonymous. People are eager to get to know and like who is growing their food. The Bullvine thinks that Alltech is one of the first companies to turn up the heat on Ag sizzle. If you are still waiting for a taste test, you could not only miss the heat, but the entire kitchen altogether. Go where the action is. “Social Media in Agriculture is Heating Up!”
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