Local angle touted for Olympic sponsorship

Ray Mueller

ORLANDO, FL. – Starting the second year of a five-year partnership, MilkPEP (Processor Education Program) is encouraging partnerships between local companies and athletes pursuing a spot on the United States Olympic team as a way to boost consumption of fluid milk.

The details of that venture, which is part of a broader Milk Life campaign, were outlined in a presentation at the International Dairy Foods Association's 2017 Dairy Forum by MilkPEP's chief executive officer Julia Kadison and its vice-president for marketing Victor Zaborsky. The campaign that will feature local athletes is titled Team Milk.

Despite decreases from the top two states, milk production increased across the nation in May.

MilkPEP's major funding is obtained from a 20 cent per hundred checkoff by fluid milk processors. Those checkoffs totaled $107 million in 2010 but fell to approximately $95 million in 2016 due to the gradual decline in the consumption of fluid milk.

Project Rationale

As one way to counter that trend, MilkPEP partnered with the United States Olympic and Paralympic committees in large part because of surveys which indicate that 9 of 10 Olympic qualifiers from the United States drank milk while growing up, Kadison explained.

The partnership began in conjunction with the 2016 summer Olympics in Brazil, helping to create some 4.7 billion impressions during the year, Kadison stated. Those included television ads, national and local promotional activities, digital entries, special packaging, and social media videos, she indicated.

To involve fluid milk bottlers more directly and to bring more attention to their brand name, the new project being launched in 2017 will be to pair processors with Olympic hopefuls for the 2018 winter games in South Korea and the 2020 summer Olympics in Japan, Kadison announced.

Team Milk Details

The goal of Milk Life is to involve some 40 to 50 Olympic candidates with processors in their trade area to arrange for a variety of promotions, Zaborsky said. For that, the United States will be divided into six regions and each brand can establish an affiliation with up to three candidates but no more than one per region, he pointed out.

Milk processors who want to take part in the project are asked to indicate their interest by February 22. A full scale launching of the program is set for the first quarter of 2017. Application details for the milk companies are available via e-mail to

Once sponsorships are set up, the obligations of each milk brand participant will be to supply milk to the Olympic candidate for one year and to stage at least two events, Zaborsky noted. Those activities could include appearances in a school or at a public event or participation in a retail promotion.

Building the Promotion

MilkPEP has already taken several steps along the Olympic promotion route, starting with commercials featuring outstanding swimmer Caitlin Leverenz and a series of videos with swimmer Elizabeth Beisel that were published on YouTube and shared on social channels, Kadison reported.

Beisel, who is 24 and who has won three Olympic medals since 2008, told the Dairy Forum audience that she remembers beginning to drink milk at age 5. She emphasized that success as an Olympic competitor “starts with nutrition.” The importance that the United States Olympic Committee placed on having milk available to the country''s athletes was shown in the decision to import milk for them during the summer games in China in 2008, she observed.

Noah Lyles, who is current Junior Olympic participant, indicated that he and his younger brother are drinking a total of three gallons of milk per week. Lyles is a competitor in the 200 meter dash.

Telling the Story

Whether the Olympic athlete performs on the field, court, rink, slopes or in the pool, Zaborsky suggested that they are “credible story tellers.” He said their message will also resonate with their families and local community along with coaches, trainers, and nutritionists.

Through Milk Life, fluid milk processors will gain exposure and leverage for themselves in their trade area, Zaborsky predicted. He said there are “hundreds of ways” to accomplish that goal.

Those which Zaborsky listed are signage, retail outlet grand openings or anniversary celebrations featuring an appearance by the paired Olympian, multiple websites, social media, and in-school events for direct contact with children, who might also be Olympic athlete candidates in future years.

Kadison said MilkPEP and the Olympic organizations agree that “champions are built, not born.” In addition to drawing direct attention to those seeking an Olympic team spot, Zaborsky hopes that the combination of local and regional ventures will have a nation-wide effect of boosting fluid milk consumption.