LiveLighter tackles junk food sponsorship of elite sport
95 per cent of Australians eat too much junk food.
Junk food and sugary drinks should not sponsor sport.
Junk food companies wouldn’t sponsor major sporting events if it did not increase sales and wasn’t profitable for them.
Studies have shown that endorsement of a product by an athlete increases sales, particularly to children.
On the eve of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, LiveLighter, Australia’s leading public education campaign targeting obesity, has launched a campaign asking West Australians to question the sponsorship of elite sport by junk food companies.
With two of the largest junk food companies granted official sponsorship of the Olympics, LiveLighter Nutrition and Physical Activity Manager, Steve Pratt, said the time has come to rethink this.
“Junk food and sugary drinks should not sponsor sport. It is a conflicting message to the public, celebrating healthy athletes on one hand, then being bombarded by junk food marketing on the other.”
Mr Pratt, who competes in gruelling Ironman events, said that elite athletes do not eat the junk food that is promoted in major sporting events, such as the Olympics.
“Except in those brief moments after competition, athletes follow nutrition plans based on core foods: lean meat, reduced-fat dairy, wholegrain cereals, fruit and vegetables.
“There is little room in the plan for heavily marketed junk food, which makes the junk food and drink sponsors of elite sport and some athletes a slightly odd fit,” he said.
This is particularly concerning, especially considering that these unhealthy messages will be seen by millions of children.
“Recent studies have shown that endorsement of a product by an athlete increases sales, particularly to children.
“However, actions speak louder than words, what athletes do isn’t necessarily what they say, especially when they’re being paid for an endorsement,” said Mr Pratt.
“Elite athletes are considered to be role models, whether they like it or not.”
High rates of overweight and obesity are cause for concern, and junk food sponsorship of elite sport normalises its consumption, according to Mr Pratt.
“95 per cent of Australians eat too much junk food, and almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, so we should be working to reduce the amount of junk food advertising instead of more,” he said.
“Junk food companies wouldn’t sponsor major sporting events if it wasn’t profitable for them to do so.”
For media enquiries please contact Elizabeth Palmer, Communications Manager, on 08 9382 5935 or Elizabeth.Palmer@heartfoundation.org.au.