“When only 7 percent of the United States $30 billion spent globally on sponsorships is directed toward sportswomen, we need change,” Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) CEO Yin Woon Rani says. The organization has committed to sponsoring every female runner who signs up for #TeamMilk by providing support before, during and after the race.

Stangler michelle
Editorial Intern / Progressive Dairy

The launch of the 26.2 initiative – signifying the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles) – is about spotlighting women who sign up for the #TeamMilk journey. Additionally, on-site presence and support are provided at three races: Denver in May, Chicago in October and New York City in November. All participants, regardless of location, have access to support, such as advice from sports experts covering nutrition, mental well-being and physical guidance, along with female-centric running resources and a supportive community of fellow female runners, Rani says.

“#TeamMilk really brought me so much excitement and added so much to my race experience,” says Krissy Wegan, who ran in one of three sponsored marathons this year in Denver. “The absolute toughest part of the race just so happened to be where the #TeamMilk cheer squad was. They screamed my name and cheered so loud it gave me the confidence to keep going when I felt like I couldn’t go on. As soon as I finished and took a moment to catch my breath, I went to the #TeamMilk booth where I stretched out and chugged two bottles of chocolate milk.”

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MilkPEP attendees cheered on marathon runners, while also promoting race goers to drink milk leading to the end of the race. Photo courtesy of MilkPEP.

Wegan even says it’s been one of the most memorable finishes throughout all her races because of the support leading up to the race and how it provided her confidence and a network of women.

“My favorite part of the sponsorship is having the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself while working toward something I am passionate about,” Wegan says.

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Simultaneously, MilkPEP partners with Girls on the Run, an organization dedicated to empowering young girls through running. For each female marathon runner who joins, MilkPEP pledges a donation to Girls on the Run, aiming to raise $1 million.

“You can’t be what you can’t see, and we know that’s especially true for girls, which is why the partnership with MilkPEP is so much more than a campaign. It’s a critical leap forward for all of mankind,” says Liz Wian, vice president of partnerships and development for Girls on the Run. “The endorsement says loudly to people everywhere, but especially to girls, there is strength and endless possibility within them, just like the remarkable #TeamMilk women honored in the 26.2 campaign.”

Wian says believing in a woman's athletic ability at a young age is what the organization strives for by reaching and empowering girls with programming starting in third grade all the way until eighth grade.

“A drastic change happens in girls’ confidence starting around age 9. Outside voices and the world around her start to take over as the author of her story, undermining her self-worth and the positive perceptions she once held,” Wian says. “We believe that every girl is inherently full of power, and by learning they are leaders of their lives and powerful forces for good, they will change the world.”

MilkPEP’s focus on female runners continues to expand. Looking back to 2022, over 3,500 women joined #TeamMilk in New York City, and this year’s campaign includes three marathons while extending sponsorship to women participating in any marathon.

Additionally, the organization acknowledges women’s growing influence in consumer spending that is projected to reach 75% of discretionary spending by 2028 according to Nielsen data.

“While consumption amongst moms has trended downward in the past decade due in part to competition in beverages, we have seen more stable attitude and consumption trends in recent years – which is promising,” Rani says. “Even more encouraging is that younger moms are drinking more milk and are actively encouraging their children to drink more milk.”

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A booth designed to encourage female runners to fuel up with milk was in Denver, Colorado, earlier this year for MilkPEP’s commitment to sponsoring women. Photo courtesy of MilkPEP.

Highlighting milk’s nutritional advantages through 13 essential nutrients, MilkPEP communicates with their audience how milk can help you rehydrate, recover and perform the best as a marathon runner. Rani also notes 44% of moms say they’re involved in the decision when their child chooses to have milk.

“By targeting modern consumers – active families – and focusing on women via running and claims that powerfully highlight milk’s nutritional benefits, MilkPEP is driving reconsideration of milk as a performance beverage,” Rani says.

Recognizing the gender imbalance in sports media coverage with only 5% dedicated to women, MilkPEP acknowledges the significant disparities women face in sponsorship, support and awareness. The organization is committed to enhancing the experience for female athletes, amplifying their visibility and connecting them to the message of milk’s benefits.

“MilkPEP is doing our part in amplifying the stories, experiences and triumphs of female athletes,” Rani says. “We are hopeful our pledge to feature only women across our campaigns, sponsorship of all women marathon runners and partnership with Girls on the Run are steps in the right direction to change the current narrative around women in sports.”

References omitted but are available upon request by sending an email to the editor.