Apolo Ohno Fronts New Chocolate Milk Ad Campaign

MilkPEP Pitches Drink As Post-Exercise Recovery Beverage

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Feeling energized after a few successful triathlon campaigns, the dairy trade group MilkPEP has decided to run another -- this time with chocolate milk.

"Mission Apolo: Built With Chocolate Milk," an integrated campaign for starring Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno, will begin airing this week on a number of sport- and activity-focused channels, including NBC, NBC Sports Network and Outside TV. The print element will debut in cycling enthusiast publication Velo News later this month, then make appearances in magazines including Runner's World and Men;s Health. A series of webisodes tracking Mr. Ohno's training regimen as he prepares for the Ironman triathlon will also be released regularly throughout the campaign.

The campaign is the second MilkPEP campaign to feature a retired athlete training for the Ironman, and more proof that the trade group has found a strategy it intends to build on.

"Adult exercisers 18 and up," said MilkPEP Marketing Director Miranda Abney. "That's where our focus is."

For most of its existence, chocolate milk was a drink targeted at moms, kids and young men. But after some 2006 research was published indicating that chocolate milk might make a good post-exercise recovery drink, MilkPEP sensed an opportunity. "We thought we had the opportunity to drive a new user," Ms. Abney said. "Those don't come along very often."

But the trade group actually waited until 2012, when enough research on the topic had been published that Ms. Abney and her colleagues thought it might be worth conducting some audience research, "just to see how viable this is."

The resulting campaign, "My After," tapped a variety of endurance athletes as well as some high- profile Olympians, including swimmer Dara Torres and basketball player Carmelo Anthony.

According to Ms. Abney, consumers who became aware that chocolate milk made for a good post-workout drink now consume three times as much chocolate milk as people that don't. "If we talk about the end benefits, and it's backed by science, it's incredibly impactful," Ms. Abney said.

Those numbers prompted MilkPEP and its agency, Lowe Campbell Ewald, to make a broader push with its next campaign, "Built With Chocolate Milk."

The original "Built With Chocolate Milk" focused on former NFL player Hines Ward also training for the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii; MilkPEP and World Triathlon Corporation, which runs the Ironman, have been partnered since 2011.

But while there are some similarities between Mr. Ward and Mr. Ohno – both are retired professional athletes, both competed in (and won) "Dancing With the Stars"– MilkPEP and Lowe both saw Mr. Ohno, who has worked as a milk pitchman since he was a teenager, has a little something extra.

"Apolo is sort of America's sweetheart," Ms. Abney said. "A lot of women are really engaged on what he's up to."

MilkPEP is hopeful that engagement will translate into increased awareness among women and people who are interested in becoming more fit. At the moment, Ms. Abney said, the campaign's message could extend beyond the endurance athlete market.

Though MilkPEP is excited to have found a possible growth market, especially in light of the prolonged decline of American milk consumption, the trade group is still being judicious with its budget.

"We try to be really efficient with our TV buy," Ms. Abney said. "It's soccer, it's hockey, it's outdoor sports. It's not NFL or NBA.

"We really want to get in front of people who aren't just viewers," she continued. "We tried to buy our media that way as well."

But even with limited budget and a long way to go to educate all the possible customers, MilkPEP feels like it's found a strategy for the future. "This is our mainstay," Ms. Abney said.