News – “How Big Sports Leagues Push Junk Food on Kids”

bloomberg.comA new study breaks down the jarring juxtaposition of athletic role models and advertising.

Kids and teens are seeing a lot of junk food ads while they’re watching sports, potentially creating associations between athletic feats and unhealthy fare, according to a new study.

A PepsiCo 2018 Super Bowl advertisement for Mountain Dew.
Photographer: Mountain Dew

The majority of advertisements during the 10 sporting events most watched by viewers aged 2 to 17 featured products that are bad for you, according to research published Monday in the health journal Pediatrics. Sports featuring athletes who are required to be at the height of their physical prowess accompanied by commercial breaks pushing junk food (and sometimes including the best athletes as pitchmen) inspired lead researcher Marie Bragg, assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at New York University School of Medicine, to dig into the topic.

“The idea that we would watch these really physically fit athletes perform these amazing physical feats and then go to a commercial break and see ads for chips and fried chicken and sugary beverages—the contradiction in there was just so striking to me that we wanted to get a sense of really, what does the landscape actually look like?” she said in a phone interview.

In the study, “Sports Sponsorships of Food and Nonalcoholic Beverages,” the researchers evaluated the quality of foods and drinks using the Nutrient Profile Model, a system used to identify products that can be advertised to children in the U.K. and Australia. The study used Nielsen audience data for televised sports events in 2015.


PepsiCo agreed in 2011 to pay $90 million per year during a 10-year sponsorship renewal with the National Football League, according to the study, and Coca-Cola and McDonald’s spent about $20 million each to sponsor the Olympics. The ads may send confusing signals to children—and adults—watching sports, Bragg said. The next research step needed is to look into whether kids eat more of the unhealthy products when they see they are featured in ads during sporting events.

“It sort of sends the message to people that physical fitness is important or sports is part of this country’s landscape and that junk food fits right in there,” she said. “That mixed message, I think, is problematic for diseases like obesity and diabetes, especially among young people who are watching these programs.”

 This is one of those articles that go into the “duh” category and with those high sponsorship dollars it’s not going to change anytime soon. They’ll just throw in a random fitness commercial here and there in between the burger commercials and mountain dew commercials.

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