The use of sports references in marketing of food and beverage products in supermarkets

Public Health Nutr. 2013 Apr;16(4):738-42. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012003163. Epub 2012 Jul 2.


Objective: Food marketing has been identified as a significant driver of the childhood obesity epidemic. The purpose of the present study was to (i) conduct a content analysis of the types of sports references that appear on supermarket food and beverage products and (ii) assess each product's nutritional and marketing profile.

Design: This was a descriptive study. Every product featuring sports references on the packaging was purchased in two major supermarkets during 2010. A content analysis was conducted and nutritional evaluations were made based on the Nutrient Profile Model, a validated nutrition model. Marketing data were obtained from The Nielsen Company.

Setting: Two major supermarkets in Connecticut, USA.

Subjects: Food and beverage products (n 102) were selected from two supermarkets.

Results: The 102 products (fifty-three foods and forty-nine beverages) had sports references as part of their packaging: 72·5 % featured a character exercising, 42·2 % were endorsed by a professional sports entity and 34·0 % were child-targeted. The median nutrition score for food products was 36 (1 = unhealthiest and 100 = healthiest; scores of ≥63 are considered healthy according to this model). More than two-thirds of beverages (69·4 %) were 100 % sugar-sweetened. Children saw significantly more commercials for these products than adults.

Conclusions: Companies place sports figures on food and beverage products that are child-targeted and unhealthy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising*
  • Athletes
  • Beverages / statistics & numerical data*
  • Connecticut
  • Food / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food Labeling
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value
  • Obesity
  • Sports*
  • Television