The Milk Processor Education Program has strengthened sales of chocolate milk as a result of the Built With Chocolate Milk campaign.

MilkPEP launched the campaign in 2012 based on scientific research that showed chocolate milk’s effectiveness as a post-workout recovery drink, with the goal of creating a new drinking occasion for the beverage.

And the campaign is working.

While white milk consumption continues its decades-long decline, sales of chocolate milk has been on the upswing over the past several years, a factor MilkPEP attributes in part to the Built With Chocolate Milk campaign.

Case in point: Chocolate milk volume in retail outlets grew 8.5 percent in 2015, with the campaign driving roughly one-quarter of the sales increase.

Chocolate Milk Growth Continues
Chocolate Milk Growth Continues
Source: IRI MULO+C, Milk Processor Education Program

The Evolution Of The Built With Chocolate Milk Campaign
MilkPEP launched the Built With Chocolate Milk campaign via partnerships with the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series, Ironman triathlon series and a handful of other properties.

“We wanted to interact with adult athletes at the point of sweat and deliver a message about chocolate milk and its role in recovery,” said Miranda Abney, MilkPEP senior director of marketing.

The goals of the marketing strategy:

  • Leverage the science behind chocolate milk
  • Tap credible endorsers
  • Engage athletes online and offline
  • Drive athlete advocacy

MilkPEP leverages the partnerships with on- and- offline activities ranging from sampling programs to 360-degree marketing campaigns.  For example, MilkPEP activated Ironman with video content, social media, advertising, earned media, promotions and athlete and event activations.

Five years in, MilkPEP has moved into basketball, soccer and hockey to extend the campaign’s reach. That includes endorsement deals with Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, Sky Blue FC forward Kelley O’Hara and Minnesota Wild left winger Zach Parise.

“We started small and focused on the endurance crowd. But it’s a small footprint in the larger adult exercising population,” said Abney.

MilkPEP has maintained partnerships with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, USA Swimming, Ironman champion Mirinda Carfrae and other athletes.

Partners With USOC On Behalf Of Milk Life Campaign
MilkPEP in 2016 partnered with the U.S. Olympic Committee on behalf of Milk Life, a campaign designed to promote the nutritional benefits of white milk to mothers and children.

Similar to how Built With Chocolate Milk uses sponsorship, MilkPEP uses the partnership to build credibility in front of its target audience. A survey conducted prior to the sponsorship revealed that nine out of ten U.S. Olympic athletes grew up drinking milk.

“On our first tour of the USOC campus in Colorado Springs we were amazed at how everyone had a glass of milk on their food tray. The USOC has a lot of big sponsors, but no one has the emotional connection to athletes that milk has.”

MilkPEP activates the partnership with sponsored athletes under the Team Milk banner. The team consists of a mix of “high hopeful Olympians” and a grassroots network of Olympic hopefuls who will work with local milk companies to promote the sponsorship in advance of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

MilkPEP plans to secure approximately 50 athletes for the 2018 Games, said Abner, noting that the organization will announce the athletes later this year.

Pass-through rights play a key role in the USOC sponsorship. Dean Foods, Kemp’s, Shamrock Farms and more than 30 other milk brands touted the USOC Milk Life logo on product packaging in advance of the 2016 Rio Games.

MilkPEP uses USA Swimming to support both the Milk Life and Built With Chocolate Milk campaigns. Milk Life receives designation as official protein drink of the National Governing Body while chocolate milk gains billing as official recovery drink.