It has been approximately 40 years since DFA introduced Sport Shake® — the original real dairy-based protein drink. Like any brand that is fortunate to experience longevity in the consumer marketplace, Sport Shake has experienced plenty of change — from re-formulations and different packaging to various package sizes and new flavors. The challenge to expand the customer base of a product, and appeal to a new generation of consumers, is constant.
Since late 2014, Sport Shake has been on a new journey, this time focused on precision performance marketing using hypertargeting — a method of directing multi-level marketing and advertising campaigns to highly specific audiences.
Debbie Rust, manager of integrated marketing and sales at DFA, has been involved with Sport Shake for years. “Sport Shake was launched as a high-calorie drink for athletes looking for a way to keep up their carbohydrate intake,” she says. “Over the years, protein benefits have moved to the forefront of what consumers look for domestically. However, our business has found a sweet spot in the export market. We’ve found that many consumers in Central America and the Caribbean struggle to find high-quality dairy beverages with the delicious taste, nutritional profile and satiating benefits that Sport Shake offers.”
Knowing the consumer base for Sport Shake has been vital in hypertargeting the drink’s marketing efforts.
“It has been a process of fine-tuning so that the Sport Shake brand connects with its consumers based on their lifestyles and values,” says Ted Sowle, assistant vice president of marketing for DFA. “We have known all along that the majority of the Sport Shake business was exported. As we followed the trail of sales, we found we were performing best in the Caribbean, and more specifically, we have seen Haitian males are quite loyal to the Sport Shake brand.”
Pinpointing such a specific market has allowed the Sport Shake team to direct marketing and advertising efforts to connect with more Haitians in places and ways that are most relevant to them.
“Haitians are very devoted to religious traditions, and have a strong affinity for soccer. They celebrate Carnival and religious-based events, and look forward to these events,” Sowle says. “Knowing this, we began to examine why they like drinking Sport Shake. We found that they like the taste and they believe it gives them power and energy to get through the day.”
These driving factors have made Haitians willing to indulge in Sport Shake. According to Sowle, the average Haitian lives on approximately $2 U.S. a day, and Sport Shake trends at approximately $1.70 per can on the shelf in Haiti.
“We are a premium-priced product, but the taste profile versus our competition is what’s driving our loyalty, along with the perception of power and energy,” Sowle says. “Knowing this, we have focused on promoting the delicious taste and energy benefits in our marketing in dense Haitian areas in New York, New Jersey and Miami where we have found new business as a result of consumer immigration. We also continue to focus on the island of Haiti.”
The team has also looked for different ways to communicate with the Haitian market. Recognizing that income restrictions and cost of living facing many of those in the Haitian population means that a majority of people do not own washers and dryers, Sport Shake advertising now appears in the form of floor clings in laundromats.
“We are thinking differently than we have in the past,” says Sowle.
This new thinking goes beyond hypertargeting and advertising. It also has led to a re-evaluation of product sizing.
“We’ve taken a closer look at our portfolio to determine the optimal shelf set for retailers,” Sowle says. “We were offering the smaller 7.5-ounce can in the United States along with the 11-ounce package, but found there’s a real benefit to upselling and just offering the 11-ounce. We took a gamble in New York, and began offering only the 11-ounce in stores, and it has paid off so far this year. We are now rolling out the 11-ounce only in the Montreal, Canada, market. This is increasing our overall profitability on every can sold.”
In 2015, Sowle said market data indicates an overall increase in Sport Shake sales of 23 percent, and the team is eagerly looking for ways to continue to grow this number into 2016. “We’re excited to see our hypertargeting efforts continue to pay off.”