6/09 Promotion: Teaming up on dairy promotion

Unique markets provide unique promotion opportunities

By Allen Merrill

One of our dairy promotion checkoff’s most important strategies is to coordinate our dollars in ways that make more efficient use of our resources.  As dairy farmer board members, we helped lay out a national Unified Maarketing Plan several years ago.  In concert with this plan, we also realize our individual markets present opportunities for unique promotions to extend national themes and messages.  

Midwest Dairy Association’s approach is the creation of teams in each of our major markets that bring together staff members working in school nutrition, integrated and nutrition communications, retail marketing and industry image.  Together, they identify possibilities for adding components to existing promotions, or creating events or new efforts that serve the market. 

For example, Midwest Dairy Association funded Dairy Fully Fueled, a project of our team in St. Louis that includes the St. Louis District Dairy Council.  Dairy Fully Fueled is an interactive school program that builds on the Food Groups to Encourage and Nutrient Rich themes we use regularly with schools.  Our Kansas City and Minneapolis-St. Paul teams signed on to the project and extended it into their markets.  More than 50 schools and several consumer events were included in the tour, reaching more than 11,000 kids in the school visits alone.

Our Minneapolis-St. Paul team participated in the Twin Cities Food and Wine Experience, sampling Minnesota-made cheeses and recruiting dairy farmers to work a booth where attendees could ask their questions about dairy production practices.  

In Iowa, our team has worked closely with the board members, processors and the Department of Agriculture to provide a food bank donation so that nutrition education materials and dairy information would get to the people who access community assistance.  

North Dakota”s staff team is developing a display and video of local dairy producers that can be used at educational events to help tell the farm production story to kids who attend events there.

 Our Chicago market team arranged a dairy farm tour for school “thought leaders.” The tour capped off with an event at the Chicago Bears training facility so attendees could learn more about the key role dairy foods play in child health and wellness.  The wellness strategy is part of the checkoff’s partnership with the NFL, and its goals were shared with the group.

That NFL partnership often works well for these unique local market efforts. While one team might be willing to have us bring a retailer into the mix and drive sales through the partnership, another might be able to do a kids’ training camp.  Still another might be able to help us drive participation in our schools programs.  We used this approach for a project in our Ozarks region, where we used St. Louis Rams game tickets to encourage student participation in our Fuel Up to Play school health and wellness effort.  The schools participating were able to win a school visit from an NFL player.  

Here in my home state of South Dakota, we hosted a sports clinic and camp for middle school students.  Vikings player Chad Greenway and alumnus Brad Johnson helped us emphasize child health and wellness, and chocolate milk as a sports recovery drink.  We’re also working on a Junior Sportscaster program with a sports merchandise retail partner and a college team.  

It’s likely your own state or regional promotion group is using similar techniques to expand the impact of our national promotion programs.  If you haven’t reviewed what they are doing currently, it might be time to visit their website, make a phone call to a staff or board member or better yet, ask if there is a role for you in one of their efforts.  Dairy promotion today is a whole new ball game, and although your funding automatically makes you a participant, finding out more about what’s going on in the game might turn you into an enthusiastic spectator.  Or like me, you could become a big fan. 


Allen Merrill serves on the South Dakota Division and Corporate Boards of Midwest Dairy Association, the producer checkoff group for nine Midwest states.  Merrill and his family milk 150 cows and farm 1,400 acres at Merrill Farm.