Chocolate Milk - FPLQ

Sustained Success (SILVER)

Client Credits: Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec
Nicole Dubé - Marketing Director - Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec

Agency Credits: Nolin BBDO
Stéphane Charier - Co-Director General and Chief Creative Officer - Nolin BBDO
Geneviève Grenier - Co-Director General and Chief Strategy Officer - Nolin BBDO
Lyne Clermont - Vice President, Project Management - Nolin BBDO


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):January 2009 - June 1st 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: January 2009
Base Period as a Benchmark: Year 2008

a) Overall Assessment

“How do you take a generic milk beverage with a small budget and pit it against a mega sports drink?”

Chocolate milk was in a slump. No longer the kid and teen magnet it used to be, its  early popularity was upstaged in adolescence by a multitude of new big-budget beverage choices. What’s more, saddled with its association of milk and childhood at a time when teens clearly saw themselves as adults, chocolate milk was losing both its cool and marketshare.  

On the other hand, with the arrival of newer, flashier competitors, competition in the beverage segment was fierce and getting fiercer. If chocolate milk were to stage a comeback, we needed a long-term strategy to go head to head with the key players. We needed to find the sweet spot. 

For decades, chocolate milk was positioned as a “treat” and consumed as a snack in Quebec, according to the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec (FPLQ) (Quebec Milk Producers). For older consumers, it was competing directly with juices, soft drinks, coffee and alcoholic beverages.

But the perception of chocolate milk as a treat was about to radically change. 

b) Resulting Business Objectives

  • Change Quebecers’ perception of chocolate milk from a snack beverage to the perfect post-recovery sports drink.
  • Increase sales volume by entering a new category (sports drinks).
  • Surpass the rest of Canada in sales volume.


c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
Quebec, Canada

a) Analysis and Insight

In order to achieve sustained results, we had to change consumers’ perception of chocolate milk. But how? Chocolate milk’s image as a snack was imprinted in early childhood and deeply entrenched.

Our answer came from science. Two independent U.S. studies in 2006, Karp & al and Elliot & al, proved that chocolate milk was the ideal post-workout recovery drink. It possesses the exact ratio of carbohydrate to protein to allow the body to metabolize proteins for quick muscle regeneration. How? It replaces electrolytes (minerals) lost during intense physical activity and helps restore fluids.

Now we had our message. The challenge was how to get it out.

b) Communication Strategy

With budget constraints precluding annual multi-platform campaigns, we needed to strategically choose our messengers who would diffuse the message to our target audience through our main medium:  word of mouth.

We needed to inform consumers of the importance of drinking the right product at the right time.  People were drinking energy drinks, water, vitamin water, juice and hydrating sports drinks after a workout instead of before or during, unaware that these drinks did not naturally restore energy levels. 

We had to introduce chocolate milk into the isotonics drink market, positioning it as the ideal natural post-workout recovery drink, maximizing its superior natural composition.

We commissioned Ipsos to conduct a pre-campaign study of habits and attitudes towards chocolate milk. A crucial insight came out of the research: consumers would find the message more credible if it came from their gym instructor or a nutritionist. Now we had our messengers. They became our main influencers.

We deployed the strategy in two phases:

  • From 2009-2011, our campaign focused on scientific proof to raise awareness of chocolate milk’s natural benefits, through strategically chosen influencers such as trainers and nutritionists, in environments like fitness centres and sports venues.
  • In 2012, although still maintaining the new product positioning, we relied on the testimonials of young athletes who drank chocolate milk post workout and touted its benefits. 

a) Media Used




Social Media


b) Creative Discussion

Our biggest challenge was to effectively change established habits or beliefs over a sustained period on a tight budget.  In 2010, we had a media budget of $872,000.   The titan Gatorade had an estimated budget of twice that.  In subsequent years, our budget was further reduced to $742,000 (2011) and $660,000 (2012).

In our campaign, Chocolate Milk’s “One lively source of energy”, we used multiple platforms from 2009 to 2011 to get our message out.

In 2012, we took our campaign a step further.  The “Young Ambassadors” program, the cornerstone of our 2012 integrated campaign, drove all key messages to reach our young and active 18-34 year segment, highlighting “before/after” training. 

We selected 5 inspiring, up-and-coming athletes, each from a different field, to be our 2012 Young Ambassadors and the collective voice of our campaign. Each was profiled in a 60 sec. video frequently aired on RDS, sharing his/her winning insights about healthy sports habits.

c) Media Discussion

Énergie Cardio fitness centres (76 centres)

Duo Énergisant was our first initiative in 2009 partnering with Énergie Cardio, Quebec’s largest network of fitness centres. The campaign had 3 components :

  • Nutritional training for Énergie Cardio’s coaches and their 155,000 members on the benefits of chocolate milk.
  • Sampling campaign in all fitness centres in partnership with Natrel
  • Poster campaign throughout Énergie Cardio’s fitness centres


96% of Énergie Cardio’s trainers participated in the training program on the benefits of chocolate milk.  Our main influencers were now properly educated to accurately and effectively spread the message.

In 2012 we added a training program mainly targeting female members (70% of total membership). This group is harder to convince to drink chocolate milk because of their associated fear of weight gain.

Additional incentives for our 2012-2013 campaign included free online member access to sports nutrition training and contest prizes open to participants. Prizes included spa getaways and private sessions with a personal trainer. These initiatives drove 30,585 members to the Duo Énergisant site, with 12,109 participating in the contest.

Sampling Campaign

A sampling took place in the 40 largest fitness centres across Quebec (Jan. 23-Feb.15, 2012). A total of 14,012 chocolate milk cartons (200ml) were distributed to members, with a rebate coupon.  This was an important vehicule for our second phase of message transmission – word of mouth. 

Poster Campaign

142 posters were installed in exercise rooms in Quebec’s Énergie Cardio fitness centres. A stand-alone poster was positioned in each fitness centre’s lobby (October  2011-April 2012). 

Vending Machines

With 10 vending machines in 10 centres, chocolate milk sales surged at Énergie Cardio fitness centres from Dec. 2009 – May 2013, totaling 35,292 units sold. Given the current ubiquity of chocolate milk, it's clear that sales have risen steadily over the past four years.

Once we had completed our objective to educate our main influencers and penetrate the athlete’s market, we proceeded to our next goal: to change the perception of chocolate milk throughout Quebec.



























TV Spot

The 2011 campaign "My Chocolate Milk" aimed to promote the product as any athlete’s ideal recovery drink, regardless of sport. The message was that chocolate milk is a potent source of energy that enhances muscle recovery after intense physical activity. This dispelled the perception of chocolate milk as a drink of little nutritional value.[1]

In our 2012 "Before/After" TV campaign, there is an intense fast-paced 30-sec. spot highlighting how athletes prepare for and immediately recover from physical activity.[2]

We also created, as mentioned, a series of high-intensity 60-sec. videos which aired on RDS and on our website.  Featuring close-up profiles of our 2012 Young Ambassadors in their before/after training, we hear their pre-game training rituals and superstitions and see their after-training with chocolate milk.  At the end, there is a call to action for future athletes to become the next Ambassador by going to our "" website.[3] 















"Before/After" TV campaign



"Ambassadors" 60 sec. videos



In November 2011, the website “” was relaunched to reflect chocolate milk’s new positioning and product benefits. This included a contest with prizes of a $1000 spa getaway, Xbox console with Kinect, Énergie Cardio fitness centre memberships and Sports Experts gift certificates. 

The website was again revamped for the 2012 campaign to focus on our athletes’ healthy habits and use of the product in their “After” routine. To create a compelling online story, we enlisted five inspiring athletes to share their “Before” and “After” workout routines via our website. Our 60 sec. videos could also be seen on the site.

In the “Before” segment, we hear what motivates them, their prep-time music and personal nutrition tips. In the “After” segment, we see them drinking chocolate milk.

To further engage the sports community, we created a contest to choose the next 5 2013 Young Ambassadors. One Ambassador was chosen by popular vote and 4 were selected by jury. Each of the winning Ambassadors received a $5000 scholarship.

Three months after the launch (Sept. 17/12)

  • 55,719 visits (Source: Google Analytics, Dec. 31/12)
  • More than 10,000 contest votes (Source:  Google Analytics, Dec. 31/12)
  • 31,147 visits (Jan. 1/13 – May 5/13) 







 2012 Website




With Facebook, we wanted to build a strong Chocolate Milk community to actively participate in the evolution of our product. In 2012, to ramp up social media support, we revamped the Chocolate Milk Facebook page by adding new training and nutrition tips from well-known Quebec experts. As a result, the online community exploded from 8,525 to 60,828 fans within 3 months, (Sept. 17-Dec. 31, 2012), swelling to 75,000 as of July 1, 2013. 



Another pillar of the campaign was visibility through project and event sponsorship, encouraging kids and teens to become more active. We wanted to educate young athletes at an early age about the natural benefits of chocolate milk as a recovery aid, so that they would grow up with a different perspective. From 2010, the FPLQ has annually sponsored over 100 hockey tournaments all over Quebec, as well as the Quebec Soccer Federation in the adolescent category for both boys and girls, the Snowboard Jamboree and a province-wide school tour with le Grand défi Pierre Lavoie. Our extensive sponsorship program of major amateur sports events and sampling was also an integral part of our 2012 campaign.





[1] Launched May 30/11, the 30-sec. spot "My Chocolate Milk" aired for 3 weeks in June on SRC (French version of CBC), TVA, V, RDS, Canal Vie, Canal Évasion, Canal Z and Télétoon TV stations. Following the launch of the revamped website "" in Oct. 2011, the spot aired for another 3 weeks in October and 1 week in November on the same channels.

[2] 2012 30 sec TV spot "Before/After" aired from Sept 17/12 to Nov 11/12 on TVA, RDS, V télé, Télé-Québec, Canal D, Z télé, Musique +, Télétoon, Vrak, CFTM, CHOT and CFEM.

[3] "2012 Ambassadors" 60-sec videos aired Oct 8/12 to Nov 4/12 on RDS ,RIS. They also aired from Jan 14/13 to Feb 24/13 without contest call to action.

a) Sales/Share Results

Convincing consumers to associate chocolate milk with a workout instead of recess was challenging but not impossible. According to the June 1, 2013 ACNielsen report, after 4 ½ years of steady growth, Quebec broke an all-time record of 13.1% in increased chocolate milk sales volume (exceeding our objective of 7%) -- the result of entering a new sports drink category. It surpassed Canada’s 0.9% to record an unprecedented difference of 12.2%, far exceeding one of our primary business objectives.

Growth has been steadily rising since the onset of the campaign with double digit increases most recently: 4.2% in 2009, 0.5% in 2010, 8.1% in 2011, 11.3% in 2012. And 13.1% through June 1 2013.

The sports community has adopted chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery aid.  And dieticians, initially reluctant to promote chocolate milk, are recommending it as part of a sports diet in TV appearances, and through their blogs and websites.   

Given our modest budget and long-term objectives, we could not have achieved these results without our new positioning to change consumer perception of chocolate milk. The numbers prove our strategy was right on the mark.  


b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

Source: ACNielsen Market Track Quebec 52 weeks ending December, Jan. 2009-June 1, 2013

a) General Discussion

In summary, our Ipsos[1] pre-campaign research provided the insight that consumers would find our message more credible if it came from their gym instructor or a nutrionist. This proved crucial in driving our message to our key targets.

Our Ipsos[2] post-test research for our “Before/After” 2012 TV campaign demonstrated that 97% agreed that “chocolate milk was a post-recovery aid for training, exercise or a sport”, while 84% agreed the campaign “improved their opinion of chocolate milk.”  This confirmed that our advertising had successfully altered the perception of chocolate milk from a snack to a sports beverage.

As a result of our campaign, our Facebook community swelled from 8,525 fans on Sept. 17, 2012 to 75,000 on July 1, 2013. 

When comparing Quebec to the rest of Canada, which did not receive the promotional effort, our increase in sales volume on June 1, 2013 according to ACNielsen[3] was 13.1% compared to Canada’s 0.9%.

This is a real advertising/marketing success story. These results were not influenced by changes in pricing, packaging, distribution or merchandising. Because there was no other marketing activity or aggressive price promotion, we conclude that there was a direct correlation between the campaign and increased sales volume.

By basing our campaign on a single message grounded in science, by leveraging key influencers to carry our message, by focusing on key environments to reach those targets, by engaging those targets to become active ambassadors and by giving those ambassadors a microphone to take our message to the rest of the province… we whispered in the right ears instead of making a lot of noise and changed consumer perception to dramatically increase sales volume.


In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.

                               -Charles Darwin as quoted by Ritchie R. Ward (1971)

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Annual media spend was 15% lower in 2011 than 2010. Similarly media spend was 11% lower in 2012 than 2011.  


There was no unusual price discounting during the campaign.

Distribution Changes:

There was no change in distribution during the campaign.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

During the course of the campaign, there was no price cutting or unusual promotional activity.

Other Potential Causes:

There were no extenuating circumstances that contributed to the positive results of the campaign. There was no product improvement. The campaign was based on the existing (unchanged) product.  

[1] Source: Ipsos "Before/After" TV spot pre-test

[2] Source: Ipsos "Before/After" TV spot post test

[3] Source: ACNielsen Market Track Quebec 52 weeks ending December, Jan. 2009-June 1, 2013