Wenner Media's Rolling Stone and Viacom's MTV have signed on as key media partners of the tour, which includes on-air and in-magazine contests, promotions and giveaways throughout the year.
"Soft drink marketers outspend us to a ridiculous degree, so we we're focusing on a narrower demographic in order to get more impact versus the competition," said Kurt Graetzer, CEO of the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board, which oversees the $170 million spent annually to promote milk, along with the milk producers' trade group, Dairy Management.
The National Basketball Association, meanwhile, is nearing the end of its two-year deal to promote milk; a decision about renewal is expected within a few months.
fertilizing grass roots
"Several million" dollars are spent annually on grass-roots marketing for milk, said Mr. Graetzer, although the bulk of the media budget goes toward general advertising. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Bozell, New York, handles.
"We're spending about the same as we have in previous years, but we're trying to do more with media partnerships. It's no longer enough just to get a page ad; we need our partners to do a lot more to bring us into consumers' lives," he said.
Departing from previous mobile marketing tours centering on families with kids, this year's effort will visit shopping malls, skate parks, music stores and concert venues touting the benefits of milk.
Teens will be lured to a marketing area in public venues, where they can listen to music and offer a 15-second "audition" on an artificial set of MTV's "Total Request Live" cable TV show before video cameras, said Peter Hurley, president of Ocean, N.J.-based Synergy Sports, which executes the tour.
All participants will be entered into a contest to win an appearance in a milk mustache ad in Rolling Stone.
Teens visiting the tour are encouraged to "swap" soda for milk, and each is invited to sign a pledge to reduce the national "calcium debt," complete with an electronic countdown ticker, said Mr. Hurley.
The milk tour, targeting teens between 13 and 19, centers on a 28-foot truck that turns into a backdrop that looks like Manhattan's Times Square and features photos of rock stars, along with Carson Daly, host of MTV's "Total Request Live."
The tour also includes a three-on-three soccer competition with local winners in each market, and information about milk; participants are urged to visit the milk marketing organizations' Web site to track the tour and watch for updates on the video-host competition (whymilk.com).
"The idea is to get kids involved in a hands-on way with the tour, and get them to think about milk at a time when it's very influential in their lives," said Mr. Hurley.