Positioning Beef as the Preferred Protein for College and High School Sports Teams
Did you know that 81 percent of consumers trust branded sponsorships at sporting events1? The Beef Checkoff aligns beef and athletics — especially in the highly populated Northeast region near New York City — through partnerships with college and high school sports teams. The Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative (NEBPI), a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff, spearheads this effort to reach athletes and fans alike with positive beef messaging.
Value of Athletic Partnerships
Integrating beef messaging into athletics is a “surround-sound approach,” meaning the partnership’s components — like on-site and in-game fan interaction, digital ads, social media content and student-athlete engagement — run consistently throughout the athletic season.
This approach provides a greater return on Beef Checkoff investments than a one-time event sponsorship. Reaching consumers multiple times throughout the athletic season keeps beef top of mind and extends trust and confidence in beef safety, nutrition and eating experience.
“The goal of these partnerships is to drive a greater understanding of beef by aligning with and capitalizing on the loyalty fans have for their sports teams,” said Kaitlyn Swope, NEBPI’s director of consumer affairs. “This is an opportunity for ‘always-on’ programming efforts, driving a greater return on producers’ investment.”
Penn State Athletics
Checkoff-funded sports sponsorships began in 2019 when NEBPI partnered with Penn State’s sports properties, supported by the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) and Colorado Beef Council (CBC.) This collaboration came to life during football season in various ways:
- An in-person experience with a “beef booth” took place at Penn State’s Fan Fest before the university’s home football game versus Michigan. Beef was promoted to an in-stadium crowd of 110,669, not accounting for the avid fans who simply came to tailgate and enjoy the pre-game festivities. Thousands of tailgaters visited the beef booth to visit with Northeast beef producers, try a strip steak sample and get beef recipes, information and nutritional facts.
- An enter-to-win social media campaign hosted on the Penn State Athletics official Facebook page encouraged Penn State fans to share beef content for the opportunity to win a beef tailgate prize pack. Social media posts promoting the campaign reached fans nearly 360,000 times and helped generate almost 800 entries.
- Digital banner advertisements for Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. on GoPSUsports.com reached fans nearly 290,000 times.
- Weekly live readings during Penn State Football Coaches’ radio show promoted beef as part of a healthy diet.
The Penn State partnership continued into 2021 and 2022.
Seton Hall Athletics
In an ongoing effort to evolve and diversify the program by reaching new audiences, NEBPI began a partnership with Seton Hall athletics during the 2021-2022 season, with support from the IBIC. This sponsorship resulted in naming beef the “Preferred Protein of the Seton Hall Pirates,” and continued into the 2023 season as well.
Located in South Orange, New Jersey, Seton Hall University is less than 20 miles from the heart of New York City. This partnership allowed the Beef Checkoff to reach more than 800,000 Seton Hall Pirates fans throughout the New York market area.
Fans saw beef messaging in many ways throughout the Pirates’ athletic season. More than 145,000 fans attended Seton Hall’s home basketball games at the Prudential Center where they saw in-arena beef signage and had the chance to win a beef prize pack during the Pirates’ shuffle video board game. Additionally, this partnership included:
- Radio callouts: beef received one 15-second in-game live mention during all Men’s Basketball
Game day program messaging: The 40,000 programs distributed throughout the Men’s Basketball season contained beef messaging.
- On-site interactive table display: NEBPI staff were on site and engaged with fans, students and alumni using an interactive table display during the Seton Hall versus Rutgers Men’s Basketball game.
- Fan365 digital ads: These ads connected the NEBPI brand with Seton Hall Pirates fans and drove traffic to the NortheastBeef.org website. Fans saw these ads more than 255,000 times.
- Beef Up Your Homegate sweepstakes: The Seton Hall Athletics Facebook page encouraged fans to enter for a chance to win a beef prize kit. More than 18,500 fans entered to win.
- Video series with Registered Dietitians: NEBPI aligned with the Pirates by creating a live, weekly custom video series that featured dietitians Beth Stark with NEBPI and Matt Abel with Seton Hall.
- Athletic Director Newsletter ads: Beef messaging was included in the monthly Athletic Director Newsletter that was sent to more than 40,000 Pirate fans.
- Seton Hall University Weekend: NEBPI staff engaged with fans, students and alumni during Seton Hall University Weekend.
- Student athlete refueling station: NEBPI educated Seton Hall Pirate athletes about beef all season long through beef recipes and nutrition information.
This year, NEBPI entered its first-year partnership with the University of Connecticut (UConn) Athletics for the 2023-2024 season. There are nearly 340,000 known UConn fans in the Northeast area. NEBPI will continue to evaluate potential opportunities with college athletics in the Northeast region to drive demand for beef.
High School Athletics
Beef promotion efforts also make an impact in high school athletics. During the 2022-2023 athletic season, NEBPI entered the high school athletics realm for the first time by partnering with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), funded by the Montana Beef Council. This partnership continued into the 2023-2024 season.
PIAA reaches more than 350,000 students, coaches, athletic directors, trainers and fans in more than 1,400 schools in Pennsylvania. Elements of this partnership could be seen in print ads, educational flyers, monthly e-blasts, locker room posters, event signage, event commercials and on-site activations.
NEBPI saw positive results with the PIAA partnership and decided to expand the geographic reach of high school athletic partnerships. With funding from the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, NEBPI partnered with the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA), which has 51 member high schools and 85,000 students. Additionally, with a Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement program grant, NEBPI worked with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), which has 435 member high schools and 283,650 student-athletes.
Growing Consumer Trust
By aligning with athletics to share beef’s multiple advantages, the Beef Checkoff is encouraging student-athletes, coaches, fans, nutritionists and more to learn about beef’s role in a healthy, active lifestyle.
“I think beef producers should be excited about these program efforts because they provide a unique opportunity to reach consumers within the Northeast region’s targeted, highly populated metropolitan areas,” Swope said.
To learn more about NEBPI’s efforts to drive demand for beef in the Northeast visit here.