CBI Case Study: Milk Makes a Strong Nation

Yili established a close brand link to the content of the patriotic film “My People, My Country”

China’s dominant dairy companies, Yili and Mengniu, are no strangers to aligning with entertainment to build strong brands. Both have been prominent sponsors of everything from China’s biggest talent competitions to the Olympics, with their products seen widely on TV and cinema, even reaching as far as Hollywood

For the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, both companies developed creative campaigns to align themselves with China’s rise, positioning their brands as key figures in the broader cultural celebration.

Yili: “Great Nation Moments”

Yili’s set of seven illustrated boxes highlight key events from the film “My People, My Country”

Yili collaborated with the producers of the patriotic movie “My People, My Country” (我和我的祖国) as the film’s exclusive dairy brand partner. In collaboration with China Daily, Yili tapped illustrator Li Yan to design a series of seven limited-edition milk cartons, each depicting one historic event from the past seven decades of Chinese history that is featured in the film, such as Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule (1997) and the Beijing Olympics (2008). The milk boxes form a continuous image when placed side by side in sequential order, creating an effect that recalls traditional Chinese scroll paintings.  The products were sold exclusively through Tmall as a set in an elaborate red gift box. 

Many Chinese brands produced commercials or short brand films to mark the 70th anniversary, and Yili joined in on this trend as well. The short film “Pride in Our Great Nation Moments” (骄傲吧我们的大国时刻) sets animated figures against a live-action background as the narrator describes his family’s connection to the seven pivotal events of “My People, My Country” over the course of three generations. The illustrated Yili milk cartons are featured as well, serving as a visual bridge between the animation and the real-world elements of the film. 

Yili’s partnership with China Daily also extended to a limited-edition clothing and accessories line, which included T-shirts, canvas tote bags, phone cases, and scarves. Most were stamped with “Proud of China” in large block lettering set against design elements adapted from the illustrations on Yili’s anniversary milk boxes. 

Mengniu: “Born to Seek Strength, Even Better Results”

Mengniu has long supported China’s space program

Mengniu’s campaign puts a patriotic spin on its branding efforts of recent years, which notably included signing Lionel Messi as a global brand ambassador last year (Mengniu was also a 2018 FIFA World Cup sponsor). In a minute-long Chinese-language ad released in April 2018, a fallen Messi rises up on the soccer pitch to prevail over his opponents, as the voiceover states, “I was not born strong, but I was born to seek strength.” 

The Messi ad was followed by a series of short films under the same tagline that portrayed ordinary, struggling Chinese (a recent college graduate searching for work, a sleep-deprived working mom), with the message that striving for greatness is not limited to superstar athletes, but is part of what makes ordinary people extraordinary. 

For the 70th anniversary, Mengniu expanded on this theme with the commercial it released during a live broadcast of celebrations on CCTV. The latest campaign, “Born to Seek Strength, Even Better Results” (天生要强成就更好), touches on Mengniu’s contributions to national goals for excellence in sports (the brand also sponsors the China Super League) and in aerospace through the brand’s longstanding association with China’s space program (it is essentially the Tang for Chinese astronauts).