Sports Sponsorships of Food and Nonalcoholic Beverages

Published: April 2018
Bibliographic reference: Bragg MA, Miller AN, Roberto CA, et al. Sports Sponsorships of Food and Nonalcoholic Beverages. Pediatrics. 2018;141(4):e20172822

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ABSTRACT

Food and nonalcoholic beverage companies spend millions of dollars on professional sports sponsorships, yet this form of marketing is understudied. These sponsorships are valuable marketing tools but prompt concerns when unhealthy products are associated with popular sports organizations, especially those viewed by youth. The study provides the first comprehensive analysis of food and beverage sponsorships of US sports organizations. Food and beverage companies were the second largest category of sponsors, and the majority of food and beverages in sponsorship commercials were unhealthy.

BACKGROUND: Food and nonalcoholic beverage companies spend millions of dollars on professional sports sponsorships, yet this form of marketing is understudied. These sponsorships are valuable marketing tools but prompt concerns when unhealthy products are associated with popular sports organizations, especially those viewed by youth.

METHODS: This descriptive study used Nielsen audience data to select 10 sports organizations with the most 2–17 year old viewers of 2015 televised events. Sponsors of these organizations were identified and assigned to product categories. We identified advertisements promoting food and/or nonalcoholic beverage sponsorships on television, YouTube, and sports organization Web sites from 2006 to 2016, and the number of YouTube advertisement views. The nutritional quality of advertised products was assessed.

RESULTS: Youth watched telecasts associated with these sports organizations over 412 million times. These organizations had 44 food and/or nonalcoholic beverage sponsors (18.8% of sponsors), second to automotive sponsors (n = 46). The National Football League had the most food and/or nonalcoholic beverage sponsors (n = 10), followed by the National Hockey League (n = 7) and Little League (n = 7). We identified 273 advertisements that featured food and/or nonalcoholic beverage products 328 times and product logos 83 times (some advertisements showed multiple products). Seventy-six percent (n = 132) of foods had unhealthy nutrition scores, and 52.4% (n = 111) of nonalcoholic beverages were sugar-sweetened. YouTube sponsorship advertisements totaled 195.6 million views.

CONCLUSIONS: Sports sponsorships are commonly used to market unhealthy food and nonalcoholic beverages, exposing millions of consumers to these advertisements.