What do Coca-Cola, Cadburys, Ferrero, KP Snacks, Lays, Lucozade Sport, Mars and Monster Energy have in common? Yes, they’re all brands that sell high fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS) products, but they’re also financially embedded in sport. But why would junk food and soft drinks manufacturers want to get involved in sport?
By associating themselves with individual athletes, clubs, leagues and national governing bodies, junk food and soft drinks manufacturers make their products appear healthier and can promote them to huge numbers of children and young people – a technique that has gone relatively unnoticed until recently.
There are several reasons why HFSS brands associate their products with sport including increasing media exposure and brand awareness through positioning of their logos, to reach and sensitise new markets to their products and as part of their corporate social responsibility activities.
However, one of the main reasons they choose to partner with sports organisations is to attach a “health halo” to their products; i.e., implicit references within marketing communications, such as depictions of physical activity and sport, that can generate more favourable impressions of a product despite it being energy dense and nutrient poor.
We believe that partnerships with HFSS food and drink sponsorship is incongruent with sport. Together with other public health professionals, academic researchers, oral health specialists and sports medicine experts we’re working to highlight why we should be concerned by the prominence of junk food and sugary drinks marketing through professional and amateur sport and the impact these sponsorship and advertising deals are having on our health.