Derek Jeter's The Player's Tribune Has a Message for Brands: Game On

Chocolate Milk to Sponsor Series About NBA Star Kevin Love's Road to Recovery

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The Players' Tribune has signed Chocolate Milk to sponsor its show about NBA star Kevin Love's injury comeback.
The Players' Tribune has signed Chocolate Milk to sponsor its show about NBA star Kevin Love's injury comeback.

Preseason is over for The Player's Tribune's ad business. A year after its launch, the for-fans-by-atheletes digital media company founded by Derek Jeter is now ready to bring more brands onto its playing field.

Following the premiere of the site's first branded video series last month, The Player's Tribune has signed a deal with Chocolate Milk to sponsor the latest edition of the site's "Singular Focus" program and promote its "Built With Chocolate Milk" campaign. After Porsche debuted as its first advertiser earlier this year, the site had previously signed deals with Powerade to sponsor "From Somewhere," a show that profiles famous athletes' backgrounds, and Dove to sponsor its coverage of the men's and women's college basketball championship tournaments in March.

"We've been very slow and strategic with how we really bring brands in, and I think there's a real opportunity. We're ready now that we've had this year-anniversary milestone in how we're going to start doing that in a really meaningful way," said Jaymee Messler, president of The Players' Tribune.

The Players' Tribune has no plans to litter its site with traditional advertising, Ms. Messler said, but is instead borrowing a page from BuzzFeed's playbook in focusing on branded content, as it's doing with Chocolate Milk for the show about Mr. Love.

A documentary series, "Singular Focus" follows professional athletes' preparation in the lead-up to major career moments like getting drafted or coming back from an injury, and the latest edition -- which will premiere on October 20 -- will document NBA star Kevin Love's comeback from a dislocated shoulder that sidelined him from the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA Finals run last season.

"He's been on a journey getting ready for this season, and I think this is a great opportunity for us to look behind the scenes and get that insightful first-person perspective of that journey and discovery process," Ms. Messler said, noting that Mr. Love is one of the show's producers.

In addition to being named as the show's sponsor in its opening credits, Chocolate Milk will be woven into the show. For example Mr. Love's trainer will be on camera discussing with the NBA star "what a good option chocolate milk is with regard to post-workout [recovery] and having it be a healthier alternative," Ms. Messler said.

"We wanted to support and be a part of Kevin's recovery, but we don't want to create something that comes across as sales-y," said Miranda Abney, Chocolate Milk's director of marketing, who declined to say how much the brand is spending on the campaign.

Chocolate Milk signed an endorsement deal with Mr. Love earlier this year after Ms. Abney met Mr. Love's aunt a couple years ago at a Challenged Athletes Foundation event and was told that the NBA star is a big chocolate milk drinker.

The campaign is part of Chocolate Milk's effort to reposition its brand beyond its reputation as "a drink that's historically been seen as a kid's drink or a treat or something that people hadn't had since fourth-grade cafeteria," Ms. Abney said.

For the campaign, Chocolate Milk is targeting an audience Ms. Abney called "connected competitors," or exercise enthusiasts who spend a lot of time online reading about their favorite athletes. "We did some pretty intensive consumer research against our target and saw basketball was one of the spots that really rose to the top," Ms. Abney said.

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