One day a few years ago, my son brought home a sport’s bag he got at school in freshman gym class. On the bag was a new, at least to me, dairy slogan: Milk – The Ultimate Sports Drink. One Google search later and I had information about the topic and the seed of a promotion idea.

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Frankenmuth is Michigan’s Little Bavaria; our town hosts festivals all year long. The Jaycees host the Volkslaufe, or People’s Race, every 4th of July.

More than 2,500 runners and their families come into town to run 5K, 10K and the big 20K race along our country roads. The night before the race is registration and a huge Runner’s Expo is set up with information about the race, as well as vendors who are selling clothing, shoes and nutritional packages. My idea: Set up a dairy booth and use the Ultimate Sports Drink theme. Could dairy farmers supply chocolate milk for runners when they completed their races? Was this an audience that would be receptive to our message?

Milk – The Ultimate Sports Drink is a program dedicated to sharing research which demonstrates that athletes who endure a strenuous workout can replenish their bodies and muscles more completely by choosing chocolate milk to drink, rather than other sports drinks on the market.

I’ve spent 20-plus years volunteering with Michigan Milk Producers Association’s Dairy Communicators, United Dairy Industry of Michigan’s Dairy Diplomats and Saginaw County Farm Bureau Promotion and Education committees, creating programming that showcases the goodness of dairy nutrition. My friends on these committees are getting used to my eagerness in sharing new ideas and my passion for sharing agricultural messages and doing the work in a timely, lively fashion.


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We had five weeks to pull it all together. The Jaycees were thrilled to partner with us and pleased to serve chocolate milk at the end of each race. In return for purchasing 2,500 milk chugs from Country Fresh Dairy and donating them to the Volkslaufe, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan’s logo was featured on a sponsor banner at the start of the race.

We were given free booth space because we were donating the chocolate milk. Cooler space was made available so we could keep the milk cold. Saginaw and Tuscola County Farm Bureau dairy farmers assisted at the expo booth, greeting people and sharing our message with visitors. Michigan Milk Producers Association provided the canopy, chairs and ice for the event. We were successful.

Many runners shared with us that dairy is an important part of their daily caloric intake. Some had read about the research in runner’s magazines or online. Many people shared that chocolate milk tastes lots better than some of the other replenishing sports drinks.

We have also used this information to educate coaches in our local schools. At a cross-country invitational last fall we handed out the research and a teen-friendly brochure to coaches. Some of the high school basketball and football teams in our county now have chocolate milk for players following games.

As dairy farmers, one of our primary objectives is to increase milk consumption among varying segments of society. People know they are supposed to consume three servings of dairy a day. But, when asked why, many people simply answer for strong bones and good teeth. Milk as a sports drink promotions add to that body of knowledge by communicating to athletes the benefits milk adds to their exercise routine. Most Americans are trying to do more exercise. It is beneficial to both them and dairy farmers if they follow up their workouts with a glass of cold milk.

Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, says she’s happy to see that chocolate milk gets its due.

“I like that it brings people back to real food. Sometimes we forget that real food works,” Clarks says.

That is a strong statement that resonates with today’s health-conscious consumers.

I know my enthusiasm for doing dairy promotion is not shared by all dairy farmers. Some just want to milk cows. I salute you for that generous work ethic! And, I thank each dairy farmer today, and everyday, for also supporting the dairy promotion and education that goes on around the country with our check-off dollars. PD

Joanmarie Weiss is a member of the Dairy Diplomat Committee for the United Dairy Industry Commission of Michigan.

PHOTO 1:Every summer Michigan dairy communicators give ice cream treats to youngsters when they sign up for the library summer reading program. Last year’s theme for the reading program was “Get Creative” so MMPA provided vanilla ice cream and ten toppings for kids to use in creating their own personal sundae creations.

PHOTO 2:MMPA Dairy Communicator Deb Krafft, right, hosted a “Think Your Drink” booth at local elementary schools in Michigan. “We often partner with commodity organizations when doing school outreach events. Doing so gives us access to great wealth of materials and many volunteers,” Krafft says.
Photos courtesy of Joanmarie Weiss.