Oct. 17 2023 03:30 PM

New sponsorships with the University of Michigan, Oakland University and others expand dairy’s message to Gen Z audiences.

The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

The school year is underway, bringing new opportunities to share the message of dairy with the next generation of dairy consumers – Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012. United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) is connecting with college students and sharing dairy’s dynamic message through partnerships with the University of Michigan and Oakland University.

These new programs extend Michigan dairy farmers’ opportunities to reach this key audience where it’s at while building on successful relationships with other universities including Michigan State University (MSU), Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Central Michigan University (CMU) and Grand Valley State University (GVSU).

Focusing on these consumers is important because a majority of college students today are part of Gen Z. This group represents the future of dairy consumption and possesses incredible buying power with a collective disposable income of $360 billion.[1]

“It’s so important to share dairy’s message with this generation in new ways,” says Melissa Gerharter, UDIM Chief Operating Officer. “They are the first generation to grow up with the internet, those who came before can remember when they didn’t spend time online. Because they are ‘digital natives,’ it’s understandable that Gen Z seeks information and digital experiences first.”

University of Michigan

Athletes and sports fans alike at the University of Michigan are certain to hear the message of dairy’s nutritional benefits through an expanded partnership.

University of Michigan men’s ice hockey team fans will receive servings of dairy knowledge through:

  • In-arena and social media promotions.
  • One gallon of milk donated to the Maize and Blue Cupboard student food pantry for every Michigan goal scored. Michigan's dairy farmers have also donated a cooler to this pantry to store dairy foods and space was created for students to ask a UDIM dietitian nutrition, food safety and recipe questions. Recently, UDIM donated cooler bags to the pantry’s clients to ensure their dairy foods stay cold; this also replaces single-use plastic bags which tie into the dairy sustainability messages incorporated throughout UDIM's work with the pantry.
  • Student hockey challenge: During each hockey series, one student will participate in a slapshot into the “You’re Gonna Need Milk for That” scoreboard. Students who make the shot will compete for a $5,000 scholarship at the competition finale.

Additionally, the partnership includes a sports nutrition fellow. This registered dietitian nutritionist will work closely with the university sports department, gaining experience working with athletes on meal planning, including the importance of dairy. They will also use social media to share nutrition tips and dairy stories as well as complete a capstone project.

The sponsorship will also feature a series of videos highlighting female athletes from a variety of sports. The videos will air this fall on UDIM’s and the athlete’s social channels.

As part of these partnership efforts, the university’s dining services team, human nutrition department and athletics department recently visited a Michigan dairy farm and a dairy processing plant to learn more about where dairy foods come from, as well as discover the vital role these nutritious items play in a balanced, healthy diet.

These sports partnerships go hand in hand with other UDIM relationships on campus, including the School of Public Health. Through this department, UDIM provides grocery store tour resources and hosts dietetic interns.

Oakland University

UDIM has also expanded efforts to reach consumers through the gaming and the esports industry – a fast-growing, multi-billion-dollar industry popular with Gen Z audiences.

To better reach the gaming audience, UDIM partnered with Oakland University Athletics to become the official sponsor of Oakland University Esports. Esports are multiplayer, competitive video gaming activities.

“Gamers, and Gen Z in general, are looking for digital-first experiences,” says Sandy Sellers, UDIM Health and Wellness Senior Manager. “This sponsorship is a great way to share the nutritional benefits of dairy with Gen Z consumers in the places where they spend their time and attention.”

As the official sponsor of Oakland University Esports, UDIM will have branded logos on the sleeves of Golden Grizzlies players, provide a live read on competition streams during events and promote the benefits of dairy on the team’s social media pages. In addition, milk will be distributed to students during at least two Esports events per year.

UDIM will also share a presentation on optimal fueling for performance with the Oakland University Esports team and give team members a chance to participate in a photo and video shoot. Recently UDIM hosted a Michigan dairy farm tour for the students.

This new sponsorship is an extension of UDIM’s longstanding partnership with Oakland University athletics.

"Chocolate milk provides essential nutrients and great benefits for athletes, and we are excited to not only educate and create awareness of the importance of sports nutrition but also supply the nutritious fuel that will help Oakland University Esports gamers perform their best," says Sellers.

More activities, more universities

UDIM has extensive experience in working with programs across universities around the state to share dairy’s message with new and influential consumers and future leaders in the dairy community, including:

  • MSU – dietetics student dairy farm tour and a sports nutrition fellowship; communication workshops for ag students, members of the MSU Dairy Club and future veterinarians in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • EMU – dietetics student dairy farm tour, as well as support for the nutrition department through hosting interns, supporting the student nutrition club, hosting cooking demonstrations, and supporting the Swoops student food pantry.
  • GVSU – dietetics student farm tour as part of the university curriculum, as well as a farm tour for athletes, and an athletic department sponsorship.
  • CMU – dietetics student dairy farm tour as part of the university curriculum, as well as an athletic department sponsorship.

“These are just some of the exciting programs and sponsorships we’re developing on behalf of Michigan dairy farmers,” says Gerharter. “Our goal is to share dairy’s benefits in meaningful and lasting ways – while everyone is having fun at the same time. These opportunities help the next generation of consumers associate dairy farmers and dairy foods with positive experiences.”

To learn more about UDIM and how it’s reaching the next generation of consumers, visit milkmeansmore.org

About the United Dairy Industry of Michigan

The United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) is dedicated to serving Michigan’s hard-working dairy farm families and promoting Michigan’s locally produced dairy products. UDIM is the umbrella organization for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council of Michigan. These non-profit organizations provide dairy product promotion and nutrition education services on behalf of their funding members.