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Why MilkPEP Is Sponsoring Every Woman Running a Marathon in the US


LBB’s Ben Conway speaks with the brand’s CMO, Yin Woon Rani and GALE ACD, Eliza Florendo about promoting gender equality in sports and empowering female runners

Why MilkPEP Is Sponsoring Every Woman Running a Marathon in the US

‘26.2 You’re Gonna Need Milk for That’ is a campaign from the US dairy industry’s educational body MilkPEP that began last year when the organisation took over Times Square and sponsored any woman running in the New York Marathon. This year, in partnership with Stagwell’s audience-first and data-driven creative agency GALE, the educational program has expanded its sponsorship offer to any female runner taking part in marathons nationwide.

As well as the sponsorship aspect, ‘26.2 YGNMFT’ 2023 also involves an OOH takeover of Times Square, spotlights women runners on socials and in select print publications, and donates to Girls on the Run International, an organisation dedicated to

empowering young girls through physical activity. MilkPEP’s sponsorship tour has also been expanded to include the Denver and Chicago marathons, where the organisation will be bringing experts, resources and, yes, milk to its runners on the days of the events. 

LBB’s Ben Conway caught up with MilkPEP’s chief marketing officer, Yin Woon Rani and GALE’s associate creative director, Eliza Florendo to find out how the campaign has evolved in 2023, why the organisation is only featuring women in its campaigns this year, and how the industry can be helping to close the gender equality gap in sports.

LBB> This campaign reveals that only 5% of sports media coverage goes to women - how did you uncover this insight? What was your reaction to this statistic and how did it influence this next step of the campaign?

Yin> The alarming statistic is from a 30-year study from USC/Purdue University. What is also interesting is that sports coverage for women's sports remains at the same level as it was in the ‘80s. That said, even when women's sports do receive airtime, the production quality and technical aspects of the coverage are often inferior to those of men's sports. Clearly, there is much work to be done in this area and while we are not able to solve the issue entirely on our own, our hope is that our commitment represents a crucial step in the right direction.

Eliza> There were two distinct moments I remember. The initial finding of the statistic - we were disappointed, but not surprised. And we knew we wanted to close that gap. But then we realised that the statistic we found was actually from 30 years ago, but the 5% number still remained the same - that was the real shocker. In 2023, you’re kind of like, ‘there’s no way that’s true’. So I went on some sports and news sites and actively looked for female coverage. It took me a few pages to find some.

LBB> The campaign includes a Times Square OOH takeover and a double-page spread in key publications - what was the strategy behind this aspect of the campaign?  

Yin> The media markets were chosen strategically to coincide with our sponsorship tour cities. Following our presence at the marathon in NYC in 2022,  Milk will be showing up to support women aiming to run marathons in Denver, Chicago and New York - before, during and after those races. We selected media that we believe women training for those particular races will see - our goal is for the women running those marathons to know that Milk is showing up for them and that we want to sponsor them as they push towards their finish line.

Eliza> ‘26.2 YGNMFT’ is all about highlighting real women running marathons. Not celebrities or huge household names, but everyday people who look like me and you. It was important to us to find women that reflected that. Noor Abukaram was someone I actually met at the New York City expo and interviewed about her initiative, Let Noor Run... It's important to us to have a partnership with these women – not just a one-time flash in the pan. We try our best to keep that partnership going.


LBB> You previously sponsored women runners at the NY Marathon 2022 - what inspired the decision to expand this to any US marathons this year? 

Yin> While a marathon is the same distance for anyone, women often face significant disparities in terms of sponsorship, support, and visibility. Following our successful launch at the New York marathon last year, we received an overwhelming response from women expressing their gratitude and urging us to expand our support to other marathons throughout the year. 

Eliza> We got so many DMs on social from women asking if we were going to be in other cities. We found that there was a thirst and need for support on the ground at other marathons, so it felt like a no-brainer. We were fired up to keep going, to meet and sponsor more women, and to tell their stories. So this year, we’re expanding to Denver and Chicago, as well as New York.

LBB> Do you have any data on last year’s campaign? 

Yin> Thanks to the 3,500+ women who joined #TeamMilk at the New York Marathon, we were able to raise an incredible $600,000 for Girls on the Run. These women came from 46 different states across the nation to run together in New York City, showing the power of community and collective action. 

LBB> MilkPEP is also pledging to feature only women across 100% of its campaigns this year - why is that? And how does your creative team reflect diverse, female perspectives?


Eliza> It all comes back to that 5% statistic. Sponsoring every woman running a marathon in the US is the start. But Milk wants to do more. Instead of waiting for that percentage to grow, we wanted to be part of the change.

Our creative, media, account, PR, and brand teams are a mix of different gender identities. And while everyone who touches this project isn’t female-identifying, we’re intentional about who we choose to lead, produce, and capture our campaigns, particularly for ‘26.2 YGNMFT’. It’s important to us to have female-identifying leads who our #TeamMilk runners have a consistent relationship with. Growing up as a Filipina, immigrant woman, representation is something I’ve struggled with all my life, from media to the workplace and everything in between. There is always more work to be done when it comes to inclusion, but working with leads like Yin and Erin Lyden, head of PR here at GALE, has been an amazing experience.

LBB> As well as spotlighting and sponsoring women runners, the campaign promises to provide female-centric training, resources and advice from experts. Tell us a bit about these components! 

Yin> For every woman who signs up for #TeamMilk, Milk will pledge a donation to Girls on the Run, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering the next generation of female runners. In addition, #TeamMilk will provide a supportive community for female runners year-round, spotlighting their journeys and providing female-focused training resources, nutritional and mental advice from top sports experts, and a nationwide network of support. We will also host dedicated sponsorship tours at the Denver, Chicago, and New York marathons, with each tour offering on-site presence and support, exclusive running gear, and access to world-class experts. Milk’s nutrients help support athletes’ performance and recovery and these efforts take that support into other aspects of training as well. With these efforts, we’re committed to building a community of female runners, by women, for women and helping each woman cross their own finish line feeling supported and celebrated. 

Eliza> We’re enlisting local female-identifying experts from stretchologists to sports psychologists, running coaches, and nutritionists to help provide training plans. Part of that advice is training plans designed with women in mind, which will dive into training from the female perspective in ways that typical training guides do not.

One of the most exciting parts of our campaign is also our partnership with Girls on the Run. This fund will help GOTR enhance their curriculum in an effort to expand its impact and further address the root causes of physical, social, and emotional health inequities. We’re also committed to telling the stories of female marathoners, so you’ll see on our social channels, a mix of long- and short-form storytelling about runners and their journeys, tackling nutrition, safety, training tips, and more.

For the sponsorship tour, we’ll be popping up in Denver, Chicago, and New York, including our expo booth, which will give our runners access to gear, local experts, and fun things like custom bib stickers and a sign-making station. And during the marathon, we’ll have a cheer zone - because motivation matters. When we did this last year, we heard from our runners that this motivation helped them keep going - so we want to continue that!

After their gruelling 26.2 miles, our #TeamMilk runners will be able to rest up at our ‘milk recovery lounge’, designed to be a central location for runners to meet up with their families, have some refreshments, fresh socks, and of course, chocolate milk - all the necessities they might need after accomplishing such an incredible feat.

LBB> What do you believe the effect of the sponsorships and women-only representation in your ads is? How can campaigns like this help with improving gender equality in sports and beyond? 

Yin> Everyone has a role to play in elevating the voices of women in sports. Who shows up in newsfeeds and on screen, and who receives sponsorship dollars, has a massive impact on how we view the role of women in sports. By actively supporting and empowering women, brands can play a crucial role in promoting gender equality and creating a more inclusive and equitable society. We are hopeful our pledge to feature only women across our campaigns and partnership with Girls on the Run is a step in the right direction to change the current narrative around women in sports. 

Eliza> There are many reasons for gender inequality in sports: financial sponsorships, coverage, and even the marketing of female athletes. Milk is laser-focused on giving its platform to female-identifying athletes, and we hope to set an example for other brands and industries to be a part of the change. So… who’s joining us?

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LBB Editorial, Fri, 24 Mar 2023 17:24:00 GMT