Marketing Food and Beverages to Youth Through Sports


      Food and beverage marketing has been identified as a major driver of obesity yet sports sponsorship remains common practice and represents millions of dollars in advertising expenditures. Research shows that food and beverage products associated with sports (e.g., M&M's with National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing logo) generate positive feelings, excitement, and a positive self-image among adults and children. Despite this, self-regulatory pledges made by food companies to limit exposure of unhealthy products to children have not improved the nutritional quality of foods marketed to children. We reviewed the literature about sports-related food marketing, including food and beverage companies' use of sports sponsorships, athlete endorsements, and sports video games. This review demonstrates that sports sponsorships with food and beverage companies often promote energy-dense, nutrient-poor products and while many of these promotions do not explicitly target youth, sports-related marketing affects food perceptions and preferences among youth. Furthermore, endorsement of unhealthy products by professional athletes sends mixed messages; although athletes may promote physical activity, they simultaneously encourage consumption of unhealthy products that can lead to negative health outcomes. We argue that more athletes and sports organizations should stop promoting unhealthy foods and beverages and work with health experts to encourage healthy eating habits among youth.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Adolescent Health
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • McGinnis J.M.
        • Gootman J.A.
        • Kraak V.I.
        Committee on food marketing and the diets of children and youth; Institute of Medicine. Food marketing to children and youth: Threat or opportunity.
        National Academies Press, Washington, DC2006
        • Australian Association of National Advertisers
        Australian Association of National Advertisers Code for Advertising to Children.
        (Available at:) (Accessed November 17, 2015)
        • Reinfeldt F.
        • Sabuni N.
        Sweden: The Marketing Act (2008:486).
        (Available at:) (Accessed November 17, 2015)
        • Shipley D.
        Children’s Food Bill, 110.
        (Available at:) (Accessed November 17, 2015)
        • Hawkes C.
        • World Health Organization
        Marketing food to children [electronic resource]: Changes in the global regulatory environment, 2004-2006.
        World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland2007
        • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
        Competitive foods and beverages in US schools: A state policy analysis.
        US Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta2012 (Available at:) (November 17, 2015)
      1. Model Statute Limiting Food Marketing at Schools.
        (Available at:) (Accessed November 17, 2015)
        • Polacsek M.
        • O'Rourke K.
        • O'Brien L.
        • et al.
        Examining compliance with a statewide law banning junk food and beverage marketing in Maine schools.
        Public Health Rep. 2012; 127: 216-223
        • Story M.
        • Kaphingst K.M.
        • Robinson-O'Brien R.
        • et al.
        Creating healthy food and eating environments: Policy and environmental approaches.
        Annu Rev Public Health. 2008; 29: 253-272
        • Mello M.M.
        • Pomeranz J.
        • Moran P.
        The interplay of public health law and industry self-regulation: The case of sugar-sweetened beverage sales in schools.
        Am J Public Health. 2008; 98: 595-604
        • Schneider L.M.
        • Schermbeck R.M.
        • Chriqui J.F.
        • et al.
        The extent to which school district competitive food and beverage policies align with the 2010 dietary Guidelines for Americans: Implications for federal regulations.
        J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012; 112: 892-896
        • Lipka M.
        NYC considers banning free toys with fatty foods.
        (Available at:) (Accessed November 17, 2015)
        • Harris J.L.
        • Schwartz M.B.
        • Munsell C.R.
        • et al.
        Fast food FACTS 2013: Measuring progress in nutrition and marketing to children and teens.
        Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, New Haven, CT2013
        • Harris J.L.
        • Schwartz M.B.
        • LoDolce M.
        • et al.
        Sugary drink FACTS 2014: Some progress but much room for improvement in marketing to youth.
        Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, New Haven, CT2014
        • Harris J.L.
        • Shehan C.
        • Gross R.
        • et al.
        Food advertising targeted to Hispanic and Black youth: Contributing to health disparities.
        Rudd Report Uconnruddcenter Org/targetedmarketing, 2015
        • Harris J.L.
        • Pomeranz J.L.
        • Lobstein T.
        • et al.
        A crisis in the marketplace: How food marketing contributes to childhood obesity and what can be done.
        Annu Rev Public Health. 2009; 30: 211-225
        • Chaudhuri A.
        • Holbrook M.B.
        The chain of effects from brand trust and brand affect to brand performance: The role of brand loyalty.
        J Mark. 2001; 65: 81-93
        • Halford J.C.G.
        • Gillespie J.
        • Brown V.
        • et al.
        Effect of television advertisements for foods on food consumption in children.
        Appetite. 2004; 42: 221-225
        • Halford J.C.G.
        • Boyland E.J.
        • Hughes G.
        • et al.
        Beyond-brand effect of television (TV) food advertisements/commercials on caloric intake and food choice of 5–7-year-old children.
        Appetite. 2007; 49: 263-267
        • Harris J.L.
        • Bargh J.A.
        • Brownell K.D.
        Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior.
        Health Psychol. 2009; 28: 404-413
        • Borzekowski D.L.
        • Robinson T.N.
        The 30-second effect: An experiment revealing the impact of television commercials on food preferences of preschoolers.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2001; 101: 42-46
        • Schor J.B.
        • Ford M.
        From tastes great to cool: children’s food marketing and the rise of the symbolic.
        J L Med Ethics. 2007; 35: 10-21
        • Epstein L.H.
        • Leddy J.J.
        • Temple J.L.
        • et al.
        Food reinforcement and eating: A multilevel analysis.
        Psychol Bull. 2007; 133: 884-906
        • Tetley A.
        • Brunstrom J.
        • Griffiths P.
        Individual differences in food-cue reactivity. The role of BMI and everyday portion-size selections.
        Appetite. 2009; 52: 614-620
        • Jansen A.
        • Theunissen N.
        • Slechten K.
        • et al.
        Overweight children overeat after exposure to food cues.
        Eat Behav. 2003; 4: 197-209
        • Jansen A.
        • Vanreyten A.
        • van Balveren T.
        • et al.
        Negative affect and cue-induced overeating in non-eating disordered obesity.
        Appetite. 2008; 51: 556-562
        • Harris J.L.
        • Speers S.E.
        • Schwartz M.B.
        • et al.
        US food company branded advergames on the Internet: Children’s exposure and effects on snack consumption.
        J Child Media. 2012; 6: 51-68
        • Dunn M.E.
        • Yniguez R.M.
        Experimental demonstration of the influence of alcohol advertising on the activation of alcohol expectancies in memory among fourth- and fifth-grade children.
        Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 1999; 7: 473-483
        • Anderson C.A.
        • Bushman B.J.
        Psychology. The effects of media violence on society.
        Science. 2002; 295: 2377-2379
        • Smith L.A.
        • Foxcroft D.R.
        The effect of alcohol advertising, marketing and portrayal on drinking behaviour in young people: Systematic review of prospective cohort studies.
        BMC Public Health. 2009; 9: 51
        • Primack B.A.
        • McClure A.C.
        • Li Z.
        • et al.
        Receptivity to and recall of alcohol brand appearances in U.S. popular music and alcohol-related behaviors.
        Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014; 38: 1737-1744
        • Cornwall T.B.
        State of Art and science in sponsorship-linked marketing.
        J Advert. 2008; 37: 41-55
      2. IEG's Guide to Why Companies Sponsor.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 22, 2015)
        • Trefis Team
        Coca-Cola in Brazil: Global Events And Energy Drinks Could Drive Growth (Part 1).
        (Available at:) (Accessed April 5, 2017)
      3. Coca-Cola is refreshing and entertaining at Rio 2016.
        (Available at:) (Accessed April 5, 2017)
        • Ng M.
        • Fleming T.
        • Robinson M.
        • et al.
        Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of disease study 2013.
        Lancet. 2014; 384: 766-781
        • Stynes T.
        Coca-Cola plans to spend additional $5 billion in Africa.
        (Available at:) (Accessed April 5, 2017)
        • Gulati N.
        • Ahmed R.
        India has 1.2 billion people but not enough drink Coke.
        (Available at:) (Accessed April 5, 2017)
        • International Olympic Committee
        Olympic Partner Programme.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 21, 2016)
      4. Marketing Fact File.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 21, 2016)
      5. Baker L, Grohmann K. McDonald's ends Olympics sponsorship deal early.
        (Available at:) (Accessed on October 16, 2017)
      6. McDonald’s. McDonald's Chicken McNuggets Commercial Olympic Gold Medal. 2014. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      7. Pepsi. Pepsi Refresh NFL. 2009. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      8. Taco Bell A M Crunchwrap - Funny MLB player stealing breakfast during games. 2015. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      9. Coca-Cola. LeBron James vs China Yao Ming - Coke Commercial. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      10. Reese’s Candy. Reese's TV Commercial, ‘NCAA Basketball’. 2014. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

        • Jurney C.
        The World’s Biggest Public Companies.
        (Available at:) (Accessed May 25, 2017)
        • Zmuda N.
        Coca-Cola maintains marketing spend amid sluggish demand.
        (Available at:) (Accessed April 5, 2017)
        • Harris J.L.
        • Schwartz M.B.
        • Brownell K.D.
        • et al.
        Evaluating fast food nutrition and marketing to youth.
        Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, New Haven, CT2010
        • AdvertisingAge
        Fast food marketing.
        (Available at:) (Accessed on September 10, 2017)
        • Kelly B.
        • Baur L.A.
        • Bauman A.E.
        • et al.
        “Food company sponsors are kind, generous and cool”: (mis)conceptions of junior sports players.
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011; 8: 95
        • Carter M.-A.
        • Edwards R.
        • Signal L.
        • et al.
        Availability and marketing of food and beverages to children through sports settings: A systematic review.
        Public Health Nutr. 2012; 15: 1373-1379
        • Bragg M.A.
        • Liu P.J.
        • Roberto C.A.
        • et al.
        The use of sports references in marketing of food and beverage products in supermarkets.
        Public Health Nutr. 2013; 16: 738-742
      11. Method behind March Madness: Why and how Americans engage with the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
        (Available at:) (Accessed May 5, 2017)
        • Lenhart A.
        Teens, social media & technology overview.
        2015 (Available at:) (Accessed February 22, 2016)
        • Dixon H.
        • Scully M.
        • Wakefield M.
        • et al.
        Parent’s responses to nutrient claims and sports celebrity endorsements on energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods: An experimental study.
        Public Health Nutr. 2011; 14: 1071-1079
        • Bragg M.A.
        • Yanamadala S.
        • Roberto C.A.
        • et al.
        Athlete endorsements in food marketing.
        Pediatrics. 2013; 132: 805-810
      12. LeBron James Sprite NBA Commercial. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      13. Papa John's Peyton Manning Back to the Future. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      14. Double Stuf Oreo Blimp Commercial with Manning Brothers and Williams Sisters. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      15. Powerade Chris Paul Commercial. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

      16. Sydney Crosby Gatorade Commercial. Available at: Accessed November 25, 2015.

        • Montgomery K.C.
        • Chester J.
        Interactive food and beverage marketing: Targeting adolescents in the digital age.
        J Adolesc Health. 2009; 45: S18-S29
        • Lingas E.O.
        • Dorfman L.
        • Bukofzer E.
        Nutrition content of food and beverage products on Web sites popular with children.
        Am J Public Health. 2009; 99: S587-S592
        • Henry A.E.
        • Story M.
        Food and beverage brands that market to children and adolescents on the internet: A content analysis of branded web sites.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2009; 41: 353-359
        • Weber K.
        • Story M.
        • Harnack L.
        Internet food marketing strategies aimed at children and adolescents: A content analysis of food and beverage brand web sites.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2006; 106: 1463-1466
      17. Computer and Internet Use by Children and Adolescents in 2001.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 15, 2016)
      18. Advergaming and the online marketing of food to children.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 15, 2016)
      19. EA Sports. Madden NFL ‘10. Available at: Accessed on November 17, 2015.

      20. EA Sports. NASCAR ‘07. Available at: Accessed on November 17, 2015.

      21. Nintendo Wii. NASCAR Kart Racing. Available at: Accessed November 17, 2015.

        • Folkvord F.
        • Anschütz D.J.
        • Buijzen M.
        • et al.
        The effect of playing advergames that promote energy-dense snacks or fruit on actual food intake among children.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 97: 239-245
        • Dias M.
        • Agante L.
        Can advergames boost children's healthier eating habits? A comparison between healthy and non-healthy food.
        J Consumer Behav. 2011; 10: 152-160
        • Kunkel D.
        • Wilcox B.L.
        • Cantor J.
        • et al.
        Report of the APA task force on advertising and children.
        American Psychological Association, Washington, DC2004
        • Cornwell T.B.
        • Coote L.V.
        Corporate sponsorship of a cause: The role of identification in purchase intent.
        J Bus Res. 2005; 58: 268-276
        • Gwinner K.P.
        • Eaton J.
        Building Brand Image Through Event Sponsorship: The Role of Image Transfer.
        J Advert. 1999; 28: 47-57
        • Keller K.L.
        Conceptualizing, Measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity.
        J Mark. 1993; 57: 1-22
      22. Mars sees success from NFL partnership.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 15, 2016)
        • Kelly B.
        • Baur L.A.
        • Bauman A.E.
        • et al.
        Food and drink sponsorship of children’s sport: Who pays?.
        Health Promot Int. 2011; 26: 188-195
        • Macniven R.
        • Kelly B.
        • King L.
        Unhealthy product sponsorship of Australian national and state sports organisations.
        Health Promot J Austr. 2015; 26: 52-56
        • Kelly B.
        • Baur L.A.
        • Bauman A.E.
        • et al.
        Role modelling unhealthy behaviours: Food and drink sponsorship of peak sporting organisations.
        Health Promot J Austr. 2011; 22: 72-75
        • Kelly B.
        • Baur L.A.
        • Bauman A.E.
        • et al.
        Tobacco and alcohol sponsorship of sporting events provide insights about how food and beverage sponsorship may affect children’s health.
        Health Promot J Austr. 2011; 22: 91-96
        • Pettigrew S.
        • Rosenberg M.
        • Ferguson R.
        • et al.
        Game on: Do children absorb sports sponsorship messages?.
        Public Health Nutr. 2013; 16: 2197-2204
        • Bestman A.
        • Thomas S.L.
        • Randle M.
        • et al.
        Children’s implicit recall of junk food, alcohol and gambling sponsorship in Australian sport.
        BMC Public Health. 2015; 15: 1022
        • Kelly B.
        • Baur L.A.
        • Bauman A.E.
        • et al.
        Restricting unhealthy food sponsorship: Attitudes of the sporting community.
        Health Policy. 2012; 104: 288-295
        • Kelly B.
        • King L.
        • Bauman A.E.
        • et al.
        Identifying important and feasible policies and actions for health at community sports clubs: A consensus-generating approach.
        J Sci Med Sport. 2014; 17: 61-66
        • Bush A.J.
        • Martin C.A.
        • Bush V.D.
        Sports celebrity influence on the behavioral intentions of generation Y.
        J Advert Res. 2004; 44: 108-118
        • Kahle L.R.
        • Homer P.M.
        Physical attractiveness of the celebrity endorser: A social Adaptation perspective.
        J Consum Res. 1985; 11: 954-961
        • Kamins M.A.
        An investigation into the “match-up” hypothesis in celebrity advertising: When beauty may be only skin deep.
        J Advert. 1990; 19: 4-13
        • Kamins M.A.
        • Gupta K.
        Congruence between spokesperson and product type: A matchup hypothesis perspective.
        Psychol Mark. 1994; 11: 569-586
        • Till B.D.
        • Shimp T.A.
        Endorsers in Advertising: The Case of Negative Celebrity Information.
        J Advert. 1998; 27: 67-82
      23. Official Sponsors.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 16, 2016)
        • Dixon H.
        • Scully M.
        • Niven P.
        • et al.
        Effects of nutrient content claims, sports celebrity endorsements and premium offers on pre-adolescent children’s food preferences: Experimental research.
        Pediatr Obes. 2014; 9: e47-e57
        • Chernev A.
        • Chandon P.
        Calorie estimation biases in consumer choice.
        Leveraging Consumer Psychology for Effective Health Communications: The Obesity Challenge, 2010: 104-121
        • Sundar A.
        • Kardes F.R.
        The role of perceived Variability and the health halo effect in nutritional Inference and consumption.
        Psychol Mark. 2015; 32: 512-521
        • Boyland E.J.
        • Harrold J.A.
        • Dovey T.M.
        • et al.
        Food choice and overconsumption: Effect of a premium sports celebrity endorser.
        J Pediatr. 2013; 163: 339-343
        • Karrh J.A.
        • McKEE K.B.
        • Pardun C.J.
        Practitioners' evolving views on product placement effectiveness.
        J Advert Res. 2003; 43: 138-149
        • Gupta P.B.
        • Gould S.J.
        Consumers' perceptions of the ethics and acceptability of product placements in movies: Product category and individual differences.
        J Curr Issues Res Advertising. 1997; 19: 37-50
        • Auty S.
        • Lewis C.
        Exploring children's choice: The reminder effect of product placement.
        Psychol Mark. 2004; 21: 697-713
        • Kelly B.
        Building solutions to protect children from unhealthy food and drink sport sponsorship.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 15, 2016)
      24. Salt Reduction in Victoria.
        (Available at:) (Accessed December 20, 2016)
        • Castonguay A.L.
        • Pila E.
        • Wrosch C.
        • et al.
        Body-related self-conscious emotions relate to physical activity motivation and behavior in men.
        Am J Mens Health. 2015; 9: 209-221
        • Harris J.L.
        • Schwartz M.B.
        • Brownell K.D.
        • et al.
        Cereal FACTS 2012: Limited progress in the nutrition quality and marketing of children's cereals.
        Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, 2012: 12 (Available at:)
        • York E.
        Kellogg credits 17% ad spending boost for increased earnings.
        (Available at:) (Accessed April 5, 2017)
        • Schultz E.J.
        Big Food's big problem: Consumers don't trust brands.
        (Available at:) (Accessed May 5, 2017)
      25. Official Sponsors.
        (Available at:) (Accessed June 5, 2017)
        • Lee K.
        • Fooks G.
        • Wander N.
        • et al.
        Smoke rings: Towards a comprehensive tobacco free policy for the Olympic Games.
        PLoS One. 2015; 10: e0130091
        • Schultz E.J.
        Steph Curry Backs Brita – Not Coke or Pepsi.
        (Available at:) (Accessed June 5, 2017)