With milk consumption continuing its decades-long decline, the dairy industry is pumping out sponsorship like never before.

Recent deals emanate from nearly every segment of the industry ranging from milk companies to dairy councils and milk processor-funded education programs, with ties spanning national, regional and local properties.

In what is arguably the largest deal in the category, the Milk Processor Education Program in 2016 kicked off a five-year partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee on behalf of its Milk Life campaign.

More recently, MilkPEP this year inked an endorsement deal with Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson on behalf of its Built With Chocolate Milk campaign. 

Other recent deals include Prairie Farms and four college basketball tournaments (State Farm Arch Madness MVC men’s basketball tournament, etc.), Dean Foods (TruMoo) and the World Series of Beach Volleyball and Shamrock Farms (Rockin’ Refuel) and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

The ties build on Dairy Management, Inc.’s long-running partnership with the National Football League and the Fuel Up to Play 60 in-school health and wellness program. The initiative promotes the importance of healthy eating and the health benefits the come with 60 minutes of daily play.

Milk companies use sponsorship to accomplish three primary objectives:

  • Promote the nutritional qualities of milk
  • Create new drinking occasions
  • Drive sales

Prairie Farms, for example, uses college athletics to position chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink. The dairy cooperative leverages its involvement by providing chocolate milk to athletes.

Numerous studies bear out the benefits of chocolate milk as a post-workout recovery drink.

“With nutrients to refuel and natural protein to rebuild, athletes trust chocolate milk for post-game recovery, so they can perform their best during tournaments,” said Rebecca Leinenbach, Prairie Farms vice president of marketing/communications, in a statement.

Milk companies have their work cut out for them in turning around sales. Total U.S. retail sales of dairy milk dropped 7 percent to $17.8 billion in 2015, per Mintel, a market research firm. Some of the factors behind the decline include food allergies (lactose intolerance, etc.) and the growing popularity of plant-based dairy alternatives.

Mintel expects milk sales to total $15.9 billion in 2020, an 11 percent drop.