Buy a “Vermont Stong” license plate. And a car, while you’re at it.

You’ve got to hand it to the marketing geniuses at Heritage Ford, who just managed to turn an Irene-related Statehouse press conference into a commercial for the South Burlington car dealership.

The Ford, Toyota and Scion dealer has launched a marketing campaign featuring comedian/actor Rusty DeWees. DeWees, members of the “H-Team” in tow, showed up at the Cedar Creek room for an 11:30 a.m. bill signing, where the Shumlin administration and lawmakers celebrated the passage of a law creating the “Vermont Strong” license plates. 

For reasons somewhat unclear, Peter Shumlin invited DeWees to take a few minutes at the dias. DeWees didn’t bring much funny, but he sure seized on the opportunity to hock for Heritage.

“It doesn’t take Heritage Ford and Toyota long to sell 100 cars because they have a good marketing campaign,” DeWees said before a throng of reporters and TV cameras.

Lest Vermonters forget the geniuses behind the Heritage branding campaign, DeWees gave a shout-out to the folks at Mt. Mansfield Media, who “have a non-clichéd way of marketing businesses.”

Heritage did buy 100 “Vermont Strong” plates – proceeds of which will benefit the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund – to sell out of its car dealership. But 130 Vermont merchants are doing the same thing, and none of them got to turn the press event into an infomercial.

Shumlin didn’t seem to mind. He got an “H-Team” doo-rag out of the deal. As Deweese and the Heritage crew departed the podium, Shumlin encouraged everyone to “give it up for Heritage Ford.”