CHICAGO: Finding the right blend of science and storytelling has helped the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) boost sales of chocolate milk in the US by demonstrating its recovery benefits for athletes.

Julia Kadison, CEO of MilkPEP - a consortium of milk processors that funds non-branded national promotional efforts - discussed this subject at the Brand Activation Association's (BAA) 2015 Brand Activation Annual Showcase (BAASH).

After years of positioning the product as a kids' treat, the organisation was able to draw on "a growing body of evidence that showed that chocolate milk was a good - in fact, a preferred - recovery beverage for athletes".

These fitness fanatics are concerned about "what they put in their body", Kadison continued, and thus required hard facts proving that chocolate milk could back up its claims.

"They want to make sure that the science backs it up," she said. (For more, including results from MilkPEP's latest campaign, read Warc's exclusive report: How athletes usurped chocolate milk from kids.)

"Chocolate milk has a lot of benefits and competitive advantages - including the cost and [its status as] the natural source for recovery - so we really felt like we could play in the space."

While the scientific data may have supported chocolate milk's aspirations, telling its story would be vital if the brand was to successfully challenge rival offerings like Gatorade's G3 and EAS.

"The campaign objective was really simple: we needed to get athletes to start consuming chocolate milk post-exercise," said Kadison.

In achieving that aim, the brand has allied with former NFL star Hines Ward and retired speed skater Apolo Ohno, who both trained for eight months for the IRONMAN World Championships, drinking chocolate milk along the way.

"We needed a story to tell. We had to talk about it; it wasn't something that could come across in a few bites or clips," said Kadison.

"We needed some long-form content so we could really tell the story … We needed to also be face-to-face with athletes, so that we could talk to them about exactly why chocolate milk made sense for their recovery."

Data sourced from Warc