This is no accident. The food and beverage industry spends millions of dollars each year targeting children because it works. Children not only influence family purchasing decisions, they will soon become valuable independent teenage and adult consumers.
Most food marketed to children is unhealthy which is why kids pester parents to buy junk food rather than fruit and vegetables. The influence of junk food marketing has no doubt contributed to 1 in 4 Australian children being overweight or obese.
We usually associate sport with a healthy and active lifestyle but food and drink companies frequently use sport to promote unhealthy food to kids. Australian children are not protected from unhealthy food sponsorship at any level or age group and this needs to change.
Sports clubs and associations do a great job providing Aussie kids with sporting opportunities but they also have a responsibility to children to provide positive messages about nutrition. Due to limited funding avenues for children’s sport, clubs often resort to sponsorship from junk food and drink companies. The result is that children receive contradictory messages that encourage unhealthy eating behaviours.
Compared to the cost of television advertising, the promotion of food and drink to children through sports’ sponsorship is relatively inexpensive. Junk food promotion:
Junk food promotions to look out for
Food and drink companies promote to children through sport in a variety of ways. It is not just sponsorship of children’s sport that influences our kids.
Some brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year sponsoring big league sport at a national level. You can imagine the appeal for your child in a particular food or drink if their favourite team or athlete promotes it.
Marketing of unhealthy food and drink through sport can take the form of:
Healthy sponsorship ideas
There are many alternatives that sports clubs can consider approaching for sponsorship funds instead of companies that market unhealthy food and drinks to children. Examples include:
Some members of the food industry will try to pass the blame to parents. They say parents should just say ‘no’ when kids pester for unhealthy food or that parents need teach their kids to adopt a healthy balanced diet combined with exercise. As parents we accept that this is mostly our responsibility. But it is not that simple. It is extremely difficult for parents to override the sophisticated marketing messages that kids are bombarded with every day. We need to reduce children’s exposure to junk food marketing to even the playing field.
Parents do say ‘no’ when children are pestering for the unhealthy food overwhelmingly displayed at supermarket checkouts. However, it’s hard to say no all the time. Parents’ Voice members share top tips for tackling checkout pester power:
When they are too young to reason with:
The regulatory system for food and drink marketing to children is complex and does not adequately protect our kids from the large amount of persuasive food and drink marketing.
Most Australian food and beverage companies claim to market to children responsibly however, the regulation of this practice is jointly administered by the television, advertising and food industries. Unfortunately, industry self-regulation is not working.
The World Health Organisation is calling for governments to step in restrict junk food marketing to kids to help curb childhood obesity. Only further regulations will sufficiently change the food marketing environment to reduce the negative influence on children’s eating habits.
Parents’ Voice supports:
You can hold the food and beverage industry accountable by: