Episode 4 – Does Dairy Benefit From The NFL Partnership?

How does the dairy checkoff’s NFL partnership benefit our Fuel Up To Play 60 program in schools and help sell more dairy products?

The NFL is the most popular U.S. sport in terms of game attendance, TV ratings, and merchandise. Many beverage brands including soda and water advertise with the NFL, why not just do that and advertise milk?

In this episode, listen to our farmer hosts – Jen Millican, Arizona dairy farmer and Dwayne Faber, Washington/Oregon dairy farmer –  have a conversation with our Fuel Up To Play 60 expert, DMI’s Anne Warden, and Fuel Up To Play 60 Indiana Program Advisor, Cassie Brooks, as they discuss how partnering with the NFL has increased the impact of the nation’s largest in-school wellness program and benefits the dairy farmers beyond a 30-second big game ad.

Dairy Farmer Hosts:

  • Jen Millican – Arizona Dairy Farmer
  • Dwayne Faber – Washington/Oregon Dairy Farmer

Industry Experts

  • Anne Warden – DMI, Executive Vice President, Strategic Integration
  • Cassie Brooks – ADA Indiana Fuel Up To Play 60 Program Advisor

Transcript below:

Dwayne Faber 0:00
As a dairy farmer, I know very little about Fuel Up to Play 60 I want to I want to know more I want to hear about what the program is, how it’s handled, and what the return is for the dairy farmer. So for every dollar invested from dairy farmers what sort of a return Do you think or does the data suggest we see on that dollar?

Jen Millican 0:30
Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of your dairy checkoff Podcast. I am Jen Milliken, a dairy farmer from Arizona. I’m being joined today by Duane Faber, who is a dairy farmer from Washington and Oregon. We will be the host for today’s discussion on the nation’s largest in school wellness program, Fuel Up to Play 60 and how the checkoff partnership with the NFL benefits this program and help sell more dairy products. Today we’ll be talking to Cassie Brooks Fuel Up to Play 60 program advisor in Indiana. Cassie has been a health and physical education teacher at Brownsburg West Middle School for over 20 years, and they feel up to play 60 program advisor for over 10 years. Also with us is an Warden, the executive vice president of strategic integration at DNI and has nearly 20 years of experience leading strategies and teams in complex business and policy environments. with a focus on marketing and Public Affairs. She leads consumer marketing and communications to drive greater demand for dairy, such as the undeniably dairy category wide campaign. She also leads the checkoff commitment to grow trust with youth audiences, including the nationally recognized Fuel Up to Play 60 program to support healthier schools. Today, we will talk with our guests about how partnering with the NFL has increased the impact of the nation’s largest in school wellness program, and how it benefits theories far beyond what a 32nd Superbowl ad can do. So let’s jump right in.

Dwayne Faber 1:59
Hey, everybody, this is Dwayne. Glad to be here. Thanks for the introduction, Jen. As a dairy farmer, I know very little about Fuel Up to Play 60. So I want to I want to know more, I want to hear about what the program is, how it handled and and what the return is for the dairy farmer.

Anne Warden 2:18
But if you zoom out the investment that you and other farmers have made 73,000 schools about 40 million kids reach and not just in an advertising sense, but actually as a part of their lives and helping them change behavior. And dairy is a part of every bit of that. And it’s been an incredible way of moving trust. You know, we’re in classrooms talking to kids about healthy eating and how it has to include dairy. But we’ve done studies that found that kids who are exposed to feel to play 60 and are highly involved consume milk about 15% more days per year, they have higher trust in dairy farmers. So that alone has given us an ability to really influence how kids are perceiving dairy and dairy farming and making sure isn’t it. It’s not only a part of their lives an exciting part of their lives. And something that they’re they’re motivated by program has enabled us to be able to bring greater access to dairy foods and milk into schools. You know, in breakfast alone over the past 10 years of this program. It’s brought in well over a billion more pounds of milk through breakfast. So it’s enabled us to make sure that dairy which is so critical to healthy diet is on the menu as accessories kids, whether it’s through breakfast cards, over the past year, there’s been a strong investment in coolers because a lot of schools as they were moving into remote or having to transport food, we’re able to keep it cold. So it’s really given us the access to be able to drive both trust and sales in a measurable way.

Cassie Brooks 3:46
Really what’s cool about Fuel Up to Play 60 is it’s about youth empowerment, and really getting kids excited about the health and wellness of themselves, their peers and the community around them. And their resources provided by Fuel Up to Play 60. An example is when we started a grab and go breakfast program to expand the offering of breakfast to kids at our school. We were struggling, working with our cafeteria manager or trying to figure out why our kids not eating breakfast. We start school pretty early in the morning. So we thought well, maybe it’s just the kids don’t like eating that early. But then when I did some digging and asking the kids instead of just guessing what the problem was. I found out there was somewhat of a stigma around eating school breakfast. Kids thought it was just for kids who didn’t have enough money to pay for breakfast at home. So very few kids would go whether they needed it or not. We really had a handful of kids that would go and eat breakfast every day. Through youth empowerment. I worked With kids to kind of uncover what the reason was why we weren’t eating breakfast, I had them look at some of the data showing what our free and reduced population was in our school, and kind of comparing with our student population, what numbers that should look like in terms of breakfast participation, and the kids found out, wow, we are not anywhere close to feeding those kids who really are food insecure. They got to learn about food insecurity through some of the offerings from Fuel Up to Play 60 there are a lot of resources for us. And they realized something had to be done. We found through Fuel Up to Play 60s resources that some schools were trying this grab and go breakfast, where it was just kind of on the way to class, grab a sack, check it out, and, and go. And when they found that option, they thought that would probably fit our school best. The first year that we rolled it out, it was a little bit of work. But we were kind of thinking, you know, we want to get this going. However, we don’t know how we’re going to pay for it. And that’s where Fuel Up to Play. 60 really helped us out. We were able to apply for funds for Fuel Up to Play 60. And it helped us to get some carts for delivering some of the breakfasts. for serving some of those breakfasts, we needed a new kiosk for our cafeteria staff. And because of some of the things that we were able to get going, we increased our participation from about four to six kids a day to now we have over 150 breakfasts sold every day. And those kids are taking either a milk or a string cheese or a yogurt. And they’re getting fruit and or super excited because those kids are not going to the nurse because they’re hungry anymore. They’re getting fed. And we knew that’s what they needed. But the kids were able to get the resources to get it started. And it’s been sustainable too. So even though it was kind of a one time grant for that program, we really were able to keep it going since then.

Jen Millican 7:23
That’s amazing. I’m really impressed that you went above and beyond to solve that problem. Good job. I guess my question would be how did you hear about the Fuel Up to Play 60 program? Like how did you know to reach out to them?

Cassie Brooks 7:38
That was through my local Dairy Council. I think it started honestly thinking back it was a while ago, 10 years ago, I think what happened is I saw that our local Dairy Council, which is American dairy association of Indiana, had some free materials for educators that I could use in my classroom. And it included some posters and decals about this Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which I really didn’t understand at the time. I just thought, hey, it’s something free for my kids. I’ll take it. I went ahead and put up all these decals. And I put up the posters and the kids started asking me What’s that? What’s that? What’s that? What’s this program all about? Like, I guess I better find out. So I got on the website, and was really impressed by it’s not just a, here’s what you should do kind of a program. It’s flexible. It gives resources but it allows me to do what fits for my school. And it was really exciting to kind of start getting kids involved in this program. Once they got involved with the brainstorming and problem solving and doing a school wellness investigation, where they look at lots of different wellness criteria in our school, they identify the problem, they come up with some different solutions. They look at the different plays that Fuel Up to Play 60 has put together that could help to be a solution to the problem. And then they I really make them do at all. Obviously, as a staff member in the school, I know some of the things that will or won’t work and what’s going to fly with the principal and such. However, I let it kind of be all of their ideas and then we start refining it a little bit to make it successful and allow it to fit in our school.

Dwayne Faber 9:41
So my question is how does that tie into the NFL? And then what is the difference between Fuel Up to Play 60 and play? 60?

Cassie Brooks 9:51
That’s a great question because I often when I tell people that I am a program advisor for Fuel Up to Play 60 they You say, Oh yeah, I’ve seen those ads on the NFL. And usually the ads that they’ve seen are for play 60 alone. That’s the NFL portion of the program. The fuel part is what I really love, because it’s encouraging kids not only to be active, but they really need to have the right fuel with the correct nutrients from the different food groups in order to be able to do amazing things. Or it’s not just about getting 60 minutes of activity a day, it’s not just about fueling up with healthy foods, it’s a combination of both of them. The nice thing about the NFL is they kind of have that star power that sorry to tell the dairy farmers but until we really introduce the kids to what dairy farmers do, and then they think you’re amazing. But until that time, the kids really relate to those NFL players that they’ve heard of that they’ve seen whether they’re a fan of a particular team or not, they’ve generally seen it on TV, they’ve heard of these stars. And so it kind of raises this level of Whoa, cool. Wait, I could win a jersey just by participating in this program. I can get points by doing this program when I’m online and showing my commitment to making healthy choices. And then I might even get tickets to a game. This is crazy. I love it.

Jen Millican 11:34
Dwayne, I had a question for you. Um, Do you have kids? Right?

Dwayne Faber 11:39
I do three wonderful daughters. God has a sense of humor.

Jen Millican 11:45
So my oldest is 10. And I was actually asking her today if she liked football, because I mean, I’m not a huge football fan. I’m sorry. I don’t really watch it. I mean, go sports. But I was asking her if it’s a thing in her school. And she was like, I don’t know, I guess a few kids wear jerseys. But um, I was just curious if you’re got the same input from your kids, or I’m just wondering if football is the draw still? The I know it was you know, 10 years ago, five years ago.

Dwayne Faber 12:21
You bet. So they do around here Seahawks dress up on Friday at school. So the kids do that. As far as being involved in the game. They’re not so much interested in football themselves are still fairly young, or daughters are nine, seven and five. So until dairy checkoff puts money into SpongeBob and Bluey, they probably are not going to see much, much in the in the dairy checkout space. So but yeah, it certainly is popular in the school. And I think it’s a great, great way to go.

Jen Millican 12:50
So how does the NFL feel about this partnership? I know that it keeps. I’ve heard from people, dairy farmers that you know, as the NFL is still the right one to be partnered with, that there’s been some controversy?

Anne Warden 13:02
Well, that’s such a great question. You know, I can say that the NFL absolutely values this partnership so much. And they see if you ought to be 60 as their vehicle in schools in order to reach you. And you know, they are very committed to that. And we have so many different players from different teams over the years, who have strongly advocated for the importance of milk and dairy and the diet. And so I would say that they’re they are strong proponents of it, you know, they really view this as a partnership and not a sponsorship. So the difference being every single dollar that dairy farmers put into the NFL goes right back into schools in order to support providing healthy foods to kids like milk and dairy. So we really are able to use all of those funds. First of all, we spend about half of them to go back to the local clubs so that those dollars can be activated on the local level to drive trust in sales. And then we also use the other funds to do programming in school and that talk about healthy eating. One of the things that we’ve really leaned into lately is kids are really interested in where their foods coming from. So we take them on virtual farm tours, we did this awesome discovery ad virtual farm tour that let them see a farm close up even during COVID Dwayne you mentioned you know younger kids not having access to it through the NFL they have a partner called go noodle. I don’t know if any of your kids do but it’s kind of like a kid video game they’ll that really focuses on physical activity. They did a video game with us where it’s a two person interactive game where the kids you’ll have to download it. What they do is they’re like they’re running in place actually, physically in a game you have to move and they’re grabbing at dairy products in order to earn points. So we get to do all kinds of cool things like that, that really drive treadmills in different ways, not only in schools. Another thing that’s been really great is a lot of the NFL players not only do they support us or feel to pay 60 we’ve been able to extend that partnership to undeniably dairy. So we did a program called the smoothie Blitz, which was actually focused on reaching young adults to talk about how important milk and dairy can be in smoothies, since that’s such a cool trend. So we really have tried to maximize that NFL love and partnership they have for us to go into so many different ways that you right, you know, I mean, it’s it’s an ongoing partnership. And we’re always like welcoming farmer input on what we can do differently.

Dwayne Faber 15:31
So for every dollar invested from dairy farmers, what sort of a return? Do you think? Or does the data suggest we see on that dollar? And and what steps are these organizations taking to remain lean and efficient?

Anne Warden 15:46
I think that’s a good question. So the way we evaluate it in fields 360? Well, first of all, every single dollar that goes into it goes right back into implementing programs in schools that include always include milk and dairy as a part of it and eating. So automatically, all the dollars invested or put towards programs that we know are changing perceptions, and dairy and dairy farming, that are creating more access to sales in schools. In fact, we just did a play that brought grants into schools, that was called our smoothie play that brought actual smoothie blenders into schools, because it’s a great way to get eight ounces of milk and some yogurt and kids died. And it’s actually our most popular place schools are been asking for. So we know that it’s driving that demand in terms of efficiency, I absolutely believe in that. And one of the things we’ve really leaned into is how do we reach as many kids as possible with the dollars that we have, and one of the silver linings of the pandemic was when schools closed down, we had to really move to a digital approach. And we are leaning into that hard because educators like Cassie are looking for more digital resources, unable to be able to teach kids no matter where they are, kids are more interested in being on their phones and being on computers. So we’ve been really focusing on investing in digital resources that are going to let us reach a wider audience make sure that fields face 60 remains relevant for a changing group of kids. So we are always constantly looking at every dollar spent to make sure that is but wisely

Cassie Brooks 17:18
to chime in on that I know when I’ve applied for funds for Fuel Up to Play 60, I’ve had to give information about how that play would be sustainable in our school. So it might give us the seed money to get the equipment to start it up. But it had to be something that was sustainable. And another thing is, we have to look at how can we bring this to more kids in our school. So if it’s something that’s really only going to benefit 20 kids, it’s not likely to get approved, the local Dairy Council round is going to work with me to try and make it something that’s a little bit wider scale, and is going to have a greater impact for a longer amount of time. But we’ve seen gigantic increases in milk sales since we started the program about 10 years ago.

Dwayne Faber 18:10
So states like Idaho and Oregon that do not have an NFL team, how would they benefit from paying into that program?

Jen Millican 18:17
That’s actually a good I was about to ask that because that is actually part of the Arizona, it’s Arizona and Nevada together, we just joined. And they were ecstatic when the Raiders decided to move to Las Vegas out of Oakland, because all of a sudden they had access to their own football team. So good question.

Anne Warden 18:37
Yeah, it is a good question. And so I you know, the partnership is with the NFL at large. And so all of the states and regions in each of the local areas can activate with the NFL, they can activate with whatever team really speaks to the school, we enable, you know, the system regions to be able to determine what’s right for their locality. And it isn’t the same everywhere across the country. And I think that’s been one of the big benefits of the program is that we make sure it’s flexible to the needs of different local communities. One of the things that I continually hear from at least dairy farmers on our DMA board is just how important the local community as how important individual schools are. And we have to treat it as such. So this is not a one size fits all program. It’s really about kind of meeting the different needs across the country. And you know, that’s one of the benefits of working with such a large national brand like NFL that is you know, kind of beloved across the board you know you asked about get its popularity. Fun fact and probably not when I should be saying to anybody at my work I’m not a massive football fan either. But it actually makes them really objective about running a program like feel to play 60 but it has the largest and most avid fan base across all a bunch of key demos and that includes females, Gen Z, millennials, people of color parents. All demographics that we are focusing on is important demographics for reaching About dairies messaging, it is, you know, it maintained the strongest popularity through COVID compared to other sports leagues, so to me that really shows that they’re investing and making sure that their brand has a lot of weight with young people. So I think one of the ways to evaluate them is also how they operate with staying relevant with fans today, I think that is something that dairy can relate to that we need to constantly be thinking about how consumers needs are changing, and how media is changing. And I do look at the NFL and I see them adapting quickly to that and it has paid dividends for them, they have remained extremely popular.

Dwayne Faber 20:36
Is there a way to get dairy on the forefront of Fuel Up to Play play 60 so that people are aware of the dairy connection as a casual observer myself, like I see the logo, and I see a commercial here too, but I don’t ever see any connection to dairy. Is there a way to strengthen that connection so that we realize that it’s not just in the classroom, but it’s getting advertising in some way,

Anne Warden 21:00
door and that I will say that anytime, you know, Fuel Up to Play 60 is present, the role of milk and dairy and healthy diet will be present soon, you know, as Kathy said, play 60 is an NFL umbrella and they do advertising around that we do put a lot of our investments and making sure we’re going directly to schools. But one of the cool things that the NFL often does is give us a lot of value adds on top of our sponsor or a partnership. So in addition to having all the dollars back, a lot of times they give us extra freebies. And one of the freebies they often get us is a PSA is that they’ll help us produce. And we had a PSA that featured healthy eating and included dairy farming, or dairy farming included milk. We also had one that they feature that talked about how dairy farmers are playing a role in addressing hunger throughout the pandemic. They run that on the NFL Network for free. They do it for months on end. And so we do occasionally have the ability to advertise through the NFL that other thing that I talked about was we’ve been using our NFL partnership more with undeniably dairy, which is designed to drive trust and sales with older consumers. And so we did this whole program called the smoothie Blitz with advertising online that showed NFL players like they were basically facing off like having, like smack talking smoothie competitions, and it got a lot of traction.

Jen Millican 22:22
Cassie, my question for you would be Um, so my kids school actually is not involved in Fuel Up to Play 60. I’m curious, how would you recommend getting additional schools on board? Like, what would you say, given your experience in the program to convince like a friend school to do it?

Cassie Brooks 22:45
Great question. I have gotten so many people involved in Fuel Up to Play 60. Over the 10 years that I’ve been involved that I’m pretty well versed at this one. One thing that I did, as somebody who cares about the program is to gather up materials. And I did that with the help of my local Dairy Council about Fuel Up to Play 60, they have some folders that they could give that have information about the program, and how to get started, there really is a jumpstart kit that helps people to get started in the program. And getting those into the hands of staff members would be the best way to do things. It could be as simple as sending somebody a link to it and say, Hey, have you thought about checking this out? It doesn’t have to be a health and physical education teacher. Sometimes it’s a school nurse. Sometimes it’s a cafeteria manager or a food service director in a corporation. It could be a classroom teacher who’s passionate about wellness and their nutrition and fitness. It could really be anybody. I’ve even known of administrators to get started. So it’s just a matter of letting them know that that resources available. And there’s tabs on the website, I find it’s pretty user friendly, so that people can easily get the information about getting started.

Jen Millican 24:21
And then I guess I have a question for both of you guys. Um, is there any competition in this space? Like, is there the NBA that’s out there trying to, you know, elbow into our space? Are we kind of the only ones out there?

Cassie Brooks 24:38
Um, there are definitely always groups that are coming to educators to promote something. I would say this is pretty comprehensive compared to a lot of other options. What I love about Fuel Up to Play 60 is it’s a great Focus on wellness and what can we be doing better? And not just what can I personally do better myself in terms of my food choices? But how can I benefit my community, and help all of our community and all of our future really focus on making better choices that are sustainable over time?

Jen Millican 25:21
Well, I’m glad to hear the dairy is the superior option here, then? Definitely,

Anne Warden 25:26
Jen, from my perspective, I think from a health and wellness perspective, perspective, it is the predominant program. But you know, one of the things that we have to keep an eye on is some of the misperceptions that are getting brought into schools about animal agriculture, especially in science classes. And I think there are different, you know, activist organizations that are looking to spread misinformation about that. Part of what we also need to do is make sure that we’re not just talking about what foods are healthy, but where they come from. Kids are interested in that. And they want to know that they’re having a diet that’s sustainable. And so one of the things that we’re doing this year, I’m in addition to virtual farm trips that let kids see up close to all the things that dairy farmers have always done to take care of the land, take care of animals, we are launching our first ever fuel to face 60 Learning Plan and actually starts to create some content for schools, that teachers maybe even in STEM fields, science and technology and engineering and math, they can apply to curriculum standards and start to talk about Yeah, you know that the dairy foods are healthy, you know that all these foods are important to eat. But let’s also talk about where they come from, and the people who make them with care. So it is something that we want to make sure that we are extending dairies role in wherever we need to be in schools, because kids perceptions of wellness are changing. It’s not just about diet anymore. They want to know so much more, as Cassie said, what’s the impact on community? What’s the impact on the world around me. So that is something that we are very focused on right now. So that we can ensure it is this remains the dominant program.

Jen Millican 27:03
So I can actually substantiate that I did two different zoom tours of our dairy during COVID. quarantine when the kids were stuck at home. And I guess the teachers were looking for anything that they could put kids on, in through Fuel Up to Play 60. On one of them, I was on a call with a couple of football players, I think in a chef. And on the other one, it was just me walking around the dairy, showing kids different things that we do to be sustainable. And for anybody that’s listening to this, it was a great experience. I had an awesome time, I was a little bit hesitant to do it. Maybe even more hesitant than I was to agree to this podcast. But the kids were asking great questions. And by the end, all of them promised me that they were going to go home and or I guess stay home. But that night after dinner, they were going to have a big bowl of ice cream or have some cheese or something. But they all appreciated knowing that our cows were being taken care of. And then you know, I always say dairy men are the Oji environmentalists were tied to the land. We need to make sure that it’s here for the future generations. So anyone listening out there, if you get approached to do a virtual tour, do it. It was a great experience.

Dwayne Faber 28:15
So as we’re getting close to the wrap this wrapping this thing up here and and Cassie, what is one thing that you wish dairy farmers knew about the work that you do? And we can start with you?

Anne Warden 28:30
Great question. I think the number one thing they need to know is we are always working on their behalf. We spend a lot of time working to deeply understand the business challenges not only of dairy, but dairy farming and making sure that we are spending every dollar as wisely as we can. We have a very focused approach. And that starts with really having farmers at the center of our work. And so it is it is honestly the best part of this job. And I am extremely grateful to work for you all because it’s incredible work to work for farmers who are doing such amazing things as you all do.

Cassie Brooks 29:12
Thank you from a school perspective. we as teachers are working so hard

Jen Millican 29:18
for our kids to really encourage them

Cassie Brooks 29:21
and bring them up and I always tell them every year as their health and physical education teacher, my goal is to help my kids live their best life and Fuel Up to Play. 60 has given me so many tools to empower kids to live their best life, whether that’s just learning the basics of good balanced nutrition and getting all of the nutrients that they need for strong bones and for physical activity and has also really helped them to speak up and have a voice take part in the world around them. Look beyond themselves. I have a kiddo who is now I call her a kiddo. But she’s, I think she’s like a junior in college now pre med. And she did some amazing things with presentations and she was cooking on stage at the State Fair. She’s been to several of the Youth Leadership summits from Fuel Up to Play 60 and started really doing some awesome things not just within Fuel Up to Play 60 but also out in her world in general and doing some really positive things for the people around her for her family, for her community, and for the greater good.

Dwayne Faber 30:45
As we wrap this up, we’d like to say a special thank you to our two guests, Cassie Brooks and Anne Ward, and thank you for sharing some insights from behind the curtain. We appreciate your time today. We thank you Jen Millican for showing up for coming here, a dairy farmer from Arizona, and myself, a dairy farmer from Washington and Oregon. And so we’re represented all over the West Coast here. If you’d like to listen to the podcast, you can check it out on Stitcher, Spotify and iTunes or check out dairy checkoff. podcast.com. So from all of us here, keep your teeth clean your TMR ration balanced and your feed and milk appropriately hedged. Thanks, everybody.

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