When it comes to food, the question in football circles is not whether real men eat quiche, but how avocados became so popular.

California growers, who produce 95 percent of the United States crop, discovered that avocado sales soar in January as snack-happy fans station themselves in front of television sets to watch the National Football League playoffs, culminating with Sunday's Super Bowl.

"No other single American event impacts the sale of avocados like the Super Bowl," says Mark Affleck, president of the Santa Ana-based California Avocado Commission, which represents nearly 6,000 growers. He estimates that 25 million ripe avocados are eaten during Super Bowl week, enough to make about 12 million pounds of guacamole, the most common use for the the rough-skinned fruit. Dip consumption "goes off the chart in late January," Mr. Affleck says.

Recognizing a good thing, the commission established an official guacamole recipe for each of this season's 12 playoff teams. The program is an example of trickle-up marketing, set off by a commercially unsupported rise in avocado sales at Super Bowl time. "The retailers discovered this and began running ads, and now we have responded," Affleck says.

The commission is treading gently, though, trying to avoid the overcommercialization that characterizes so much Super Bowl marketing. "If I told you we had $40 million of tie-in promotions with [beverage and chip offers], it would change the feel of whole thing," Affleck says.

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