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

Abstract

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.