- Top most sports leagues promote unhealthy food and beverages to kids heavily through advertisements.
- Millions of children and adolescents from the age of 2-17 watch sports programs associated with unhealthy food and beverage sponsors.
- According to the Nutrient Profile Index (NPI), the minimum value for a product to be nutritious is 64 and higher.
- More than three-quarters of the advertised food products failed to meet even the set minimum standard for nutrition.
Increasing amount of Unhealthy foods and beverages are being advertised in multi-million-dollar television and online sports forums. Do you know that these advertisements may be contributing to an already increasing obesity epidemic among children and adolescents in the U.S, asks a new study.
The findings of this study are published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
After analyses of televised sports programs which are watched by children of 2-17 years of age, they found that in almost ten most watched sports organizations (e.g., NFL), most of the products that were advertised were rated "unhealthy" under the guidelines of the Nutrient Profile Model. This Model identifies nutritious value in the United Kingdom and Australia.
This Nutrient Profile Index is assigned by NPM system to all foods, and these scores are then converted to a 0-100 point scale. An NPI of 64 or higher indicates a food product as "nutritious. An average NPI score of around 38-39 for promoted foods such as potato chips and sugary cereals was found.
The scientists in the study examined all the sports sponsorship agreements from 2006 to 2016 to understand the situation. The National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Fťdťration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Even Little League Baseball and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) were the ten most watched youth programmes that were connected to the food and beverage manufacturers for a decade.
The National Football League (NFL)came first with over ten food and beverage sponsors followed by the NHL with seven. Surprisingly, Little League Baseball landed in third, with six sponsorships. This is particularly worrying because of its child-targeted nature.
And also five sports leagues each had four, including MLB, NBA, NCAA, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).
The NFL led the whole group by a substantial margin with more than 224 million number of television impressions from its ads among viewers aged 2-17 and total YouTube views (more than 93 million).
"The U.S. is in the throes of a child and adolescent obesity epidemic, and these findings suggest that sports organizations and many of their sponsors are contributing, directly and indirectly, to it," says Marie Bragg, PhD, assistant professor of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine and the study's lead investigator. "Sports organizations need to develop more health-conscious marketing strategies that are aligned with recommendations from national medical associations."
This study follows a study that was done by Dr. Bragg earlier and was also published in 2016, that study also found similar results from an analysis of food and beverage sponsorships with top music celebrities.
How did they conduct the study?
Nielsen television ratings for sports programs aired during 2015 were used to identify the ten sports organizations whose events were most frequently watched by youth. For all of these top 10, a list was compiled of all sponsors, and was sorted into 11 categories, such as "retail," "automotive" and "food/beverage."
The researchers were able to identify the "food/beverage" ads through YouTube and an ad database called AdScope. They also used specific search criteria, including a name of the product and whether a product logo was utilized in the ad.
The researchers found that nearly 412 million youth whose age was from 2-17 viewed sports programs associated with ten sports organizations in 2015, and over 234 sponsors were associated with the 500 most-watched programs.
Food/nonalcoholic beverages were the second in line in advertising category (almost 19%), second only to automotive-related ads (almost 20%). Of nearly 173 instances where food and non-alcoholic beverages were promoted, more than 76% of the advertised products were found to have NPM-derived scores of less than 64.
Exclusion of in-stadium advertising and sponsorship appearances within games, and as well as an inability to distinguish between unique views versus repeated views of YouTube ads were some of the limitations of this study, Braggs points out.
"Unhealthy food and beverage promotion through organized sports is pervasive," she says. "These organizations must put forth a better effort to protect their youngest and most impressionable fans."
- Marie A. Bragg, Alysa N. Miller, Christina A. Roberto, Rachel Sam, Vishnudas Sarda, Jennifer L. Harris, Kelly D. Brownell. Sports Sponsorships of Food and Nonalcoholic Beverages, Pediatrics (2018).DOI:†10.1542/peds.2017-2822