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Marketing Food and Beverages to Youth Through Sports

      Abstract

      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.

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