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Unhealthy foods in sports ads

Cassie Huffman, Video Editor

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Watching a sporting event on television comes with an abundant amount of commercials. Advertisements for cars, alcoholic beverages and sporting gear are watched by millions every year. But unhealthy food is prominent in these endorsements. In a  Nielsen statistics-based study, researchers found that 10 of the most watched sports organizations between the ages of 2 and 17 had food brand sponsorships that promoted “unhealthy” food options.

Seventy-six percent of the sporting advertisements include “unhealthy” food choices. Fifty-two percent of beverage commercials encourage drinks that are high in sugar. With young children being exposed to commercials which promote unhealthy food while watching an athletic event, it can give the wrong expectation about athletics. “Food marketing is one factor that contributes to poor diet among youth,” said Dr. Marie A. Bragg, who works in the population health department at the School of Medicine and the College of Global Public Health at New York University. “Exposure to food advertisements can influence children’s food preferences and purchase requests and can lead to increased short-term food consumption, even for foods that are not shown in the advertisement.”

Many sporting organizations team up with junk food brands, which promotes the opposite of what their programs display. During the game, children watch collegiate or professional athletes playing sports and being active, but when the program turns to a commercial break, they are being shown unhealthy options. Some commercials blatantly endorse fast food chains, soda brands or alcoholic beverages, but some advertisers are more tricky. They will hide their unhealthy food options in crowds of people cheering on events, audiences watching movies or people playing at the park. Children and teenagers will start to link these polarities together, thinking that activeness and junk food are joint.

A major example is the Olympics. The Olympics are meant to showcase the athletic talent that people have, yet their sponsors contradict the health of the athletes performing. Coca-Cola and McDonalds are both sponsors of the Olympics, which can give a confusing result. These unhealthy food and beverage options are advertised heavily during the Olympic Games and are strongly promoted alongside them. This leads to viewers associating unhealthy food options with athletics, which can be a dangerous combination.

Football is one of the most commonly watched sports in America and millions every year turn on their televisions to watch the games. The NFL is also sponsored by McDonalds along with Frito-Lay and Papa John’s. Companies like these are showcased during commercial breaks which can lead to cravings of viewers. With the national obesity rate among children in America at 18.5 percent, studies are finding that commercials which endorse junk food are partially to blame.

“With kids idolizing athletes, the endorsement of these products stemming from this platform can have a detrimental effect on youth,” Gretchen Strobbe said. “These commercials cause a misalignment between the reality of what the advertisement shows and the actual diet the athletes must maintain. They are essentially encouraging that sports and junk food go hand in hand.” Unhealthy foods correlating with sports entertainment is no new problem, but with the continual rise in popularity of sports, only more people will be exposed to these endorsements.

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Unhealthy foods in sports ads