20 Feb Food, fizzy, and football: promoting unhealthy food and beverages through sport
Published in the BMC Public health 2013
Authors:Mary-Ann Carter, Louise Signal, Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek and Anthony Maher
Background: High participation rates in sport and increasing recognition of how diet benefits athletic performance
suggest sports settings may be ideal locations for promoting healthy eating. While research has demonstrated the
effect of tobacco and alcohol sponsorship on consumption, particularly among youth, few studies have examined the
extent or impact of food and beverage company sponsorship in sport. Studies using brand logos as a measure suggest
unhealthy foods and beverages dominate sports sponsorship. However, as marketing goes beyond the use of brand
livery, research examining how marketers support sponsorships that create brand associations encouraging consumer
purchase is also required. This study aimed to identify the characteristics and extent of sponsorships and associated
marketing by food and non-alcoholic beverage brands and companies through a case study of New Zealand sport.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review of 308 websites of national and regional New Zealand sporting
organisations to identify food and beverage sponsors, which were then classified as healthy or unhealthy using
nutrient criteria for energy, fat, sodium and fibre levels. We interviewed 18 key informants from national and regional
sporting organisations about sponsorships.
Results: Food and beverage sponsorship of sport is not extensive in New Zealand. However, both healthy and
unhealthy brands and companies do sponsor sport. Relatively few support their sponsorships with additional
marketing. Interviews revealed that although many sports organisations felt concerned about associating themselves
with unhealthy foods or beverages, others considered sponsorship income more important.
Conclusions: While there is limited food and beverage sponsorship of New Zealand sport, unhealthy food and
beverage brands and companies do sponsor sport. The few that use additional marketing activities create repeat
exposure for their brands, many of which target children. The findings suggest policies that restrict sponsorship of
sports by unhealthy food and beverage manufacturers may help limit children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing
within New Zealand sports settings.