Chocolate milk has what it takes to help athletes recover after a hard workout. In fact, it’s backed by science and trusted by elite athletes as their “go to” recovery drink. It has high-quality protein scientifically shown to help repair and rebuild muscles.

It is this information and insight that led the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) to reposition what was traditionally known as a “kids’ drink” into a serious recovery beverage. Armed with scientific evidence, MilkPEP teamed up with top-notch athletes and well-known partners to go head-to-head with established sports beverages and break into $3.3 billion sports-drink industry.

Effective promotion

Launched in March 2012, the program included integrated print, television and digital advertising; social media; grassroots events; and retail activation. Through these campaign elements, MilkPEP has:

  • Partnered with top-tier athletes including 12-time swimming medalist Dara Torres, Ironman World Champions Chris Lieto and Mirinda Carfrae, USA Basketball legend Carmelo Anthony and US Swim Team Trainer Nick Folker, among others
  • Showcased the importance of recovery and the role that chocolate milk played in Hines Ward’s journey from gridiron to Ironman
  • Generated more than 1 billion consumer media impressions
  • Participated in more than 125 local events in cities across the country — from San Diego, Calif., to Lake Placid, N.Y.

The good news is that the message is resonating. Flavored milk sales data show a significant increase since the campaign launched, helping to push flavored milk sales into the black for the first time in years.

Optimizing the campaign

We aren’t satisfied simply congratulating ourselves on a successful campaign. Last summer, we partnered with Paradigm Sample and ExactCast, a joint venture of the political polling firm Whitman Insight Strategies and the ad agency Protagonist, to better understand the strengths and areas for improvement in the campaign. Paradigm Sample focused on where people are consuming chocolate milk and where we can have the most impact by collecting real time consumer feedback at six premier race events, including the Rock n’ Roll Marathon and Ironman. ExactCast concentrated the effectiveness of our message.

Here are the highlights of what we learned:

  • Unique in-store opportunity. While many recovery beverages are consumed at point of sweat, athletes tend to drink chocolate milk in single-serve packages at home. This creates a unique opportunity for processors in the traditional grocery environment and supports the need for in-store activations to keep chocolate milk top of mind (something the research also found was a top barrier to chocolate milk consumption).
  • Strong campaign look and feel. The images, texts and copy that make up the current campaign are likeable, believable and have effectively influenced athletes and active adults to choose chocolate milk as a recovery beverage.
  • Opportunity to evolve our message. We’ve established chocolate milk as a viable recovery beverage, so in the next evolution of the program we are looking to further strengthen this message to make the connection between chocolate milk and recovery even tighter.

The next evolution

As a result of this research, in November 2013, MilkPEP launched the “Built With Chocolate Milk” campaign — which mimics the look and feel of the current program. Through a variety of initiatives — and with the help of elite athletes, trainers and sports dietitians — the Built With Chocolate Milk campaign will reach active adults who are serious about exercise to educate them about the importance of recovering effectively through:

  • Partnerships with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Ironman U.S. Triathlon Series, Life Time Fitness Cycle Club and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, among others.
  • Exclusive online training videos.
  • A consumer call-to-action to join Team Chocolate Milk and get sponsored.
  • Recovery clinics at high-profile events nationwide.

Get involved, milk processors

We’re doing everything we can to support this campaign and help drive chocolate milk sales, including grassroots events, athlete partnerships, promotional materials, social engagement and more. But to truly move the needle, we need your help.

Here are the three things we are asking of you:

  1. Download artwork and assets. The Built With Chocolate Milk campaign artwork, logo and packaging information are all easily accessible in the Promotions and Packaging Artwork section of These materials will help you tell chocolate milk’s recovery story in-store and help keep chocolate milk top-of-mind — something our research emphasized was critical to driving sales.
  2. Get social. Spread the word about the power of chocolate milk and leverage the campaign’s online assets — including compelling videos — via your brand’s social channels. We even provide suggested monthly social media content on
  3. Participate in a local event. In 2014, we will be present at 43 local events. These fully supported events at premier races across the country provide the perfect opportunity to leverage MilkPEP partnerships with Ironman, Iron Girl, Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series and Lifetime Fitness Esprit de She events to strengthen community relations and raise awareness of chocolate milk as a recovery beverage. There are also additional opportunities to own your own event. Log onto to learn more.

 We know chocolate milk as a recovery beverage is a powerful message. Our sales and research show this. That’s why we’re so excited about the strength of this campaign and its continuing evolution. With your help, we know the “Built With Chocolate Milk” campaign will significantly impact customer enthusiasm and ultimately, drive incremental chocolate milk sales. So, help us build your success with chocolate milk.