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Junk Food Marketing Scores Big with Superstar Athletes
Ask any group of elementary-aged kids what they want to be when they grow up, and you are pretty much guaranteed to get a few who want to be either football players, basketball players, baseball players, or soccer stars. Kids want to be athletes, and they look up to them. That’s why the results of a recent study are a little unsettling for us.
A group of researchers from Yale, Stanford, Duke and Harvard universities has found that superstar athletes are endorsing, well, junk foods, according to an article by Mary MacVean of the Los Angeles Times.
You’ve probably seen a commercial or two like this yourself: a fit, famous athlete makes an impossible shot on the basketball court and scores only to stop and chug a sugary energy drink. Or, the athlete plays a game of tag football on the field with some children and then bites into a greasy hamburger.
Tennis pro Serena Williams endorses Oreos. NFL quarterback Peyton Manning endorses Pepsi-Cola. Famous basketball player Lebron James endorses McDonald’s, and so on. Surely most of the foods and beverages athletes endorse are good for you, right?
Wrong. The study found that of the 49 food products it researched, nearly 80 percent of those were dense in energy and deficient in nutrients. Of the 79 beverage products researched, 93 percent got all their calories from added sugar.
“It would be ideal if athletes stopped promoting unhealthful food, but that’s a tall order given how much money is involved,” lead researcher Marie Bragg of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity said.
We are talking millions of dollars here. McDonald’s has reportedly paid Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant around $12 million to promote the brand, per year. I can go on here, but you get the idea.
While additional research needs to be done to determine the effects of all this advertising on consumers, we can only guess that it works to some accountable degree—judging by the amount of money food and beverage companies are forking out for it.
Jaded adults might be able to look at a superstar athlete eating a Big Mac and think, “I bet they spit that bite out right after this take,” or “That’s probably the only cookie that person will eat all year.” But, are our kids thinking that? When childhood obesity rates are frighteningly high, maybe us consumers should be a little more concerned with the values of the athletes our kids are looking up to.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.