The advertisement of “unhealthy food” is now recognized as one of the many determinants of obesity. The sponsorship of sport by fast food companies is a popular debate within public health professionals.
The affirmative argument is that the promotion of energy dense and nutrient poor foods directly impacts on the eating choices of children and consequently leading to weight gain and diet related disease. “With nearly two-thirds of all children participating in organised sport regularly, it is deeply concerning to see such a high frequency of fast food and sugary drink sponsorship at local sports clubs undermining the great health benefits of kids sport.”
The promotion of such “unhealthy foods” (energy dense, nutrient poor) changes children’s preferences through exposure, taste, consumption and experience therefore increasing consumption. Sponsorship is extremely effective as Kelly, 2015 reported “children bought food/drinks products because these companies sponsored their sport.”
Television marketing has come under scrutiny relating to time, target market and theme of the advertisements. Professionals argue that the promotion of fast food by healthy athletes to children and teens is inappropriate3. In 2009, the Australian government introduced two self-regulatory codes the “Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children” and the” Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative” in a bid to regulate and reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food messages.
This restriction has forced these multinational corporations to shift to sponsorship and brand association in order to maximize their branding and reach. Due to the success and effectiveness the sponsorship of major sporting teams and events has grown exponentially costing between $880,000 and $745 million. A study conducted by Pettigrew et al. reported that 76% of children were able to correctly recall at least one sport and the correct sponsor. Sponsorship of children’s sport allows for direct access to a hard to reach audience due to these new restrictions.
Many local communities argue that sponsorship by large organizations generates essential funding. Additionally, sponsorship in the form of uniform branding and signage does not portray any negative health messages only exposes children to branding. There is very little scientific evidence that does not suggest a direct correlation between increased exposure to unhealthy food messages and increased consumption and studies have demonstrated that parents do not support sports sponsorship.