Most Athlete-Endorsed Foods Directed to Young Adults Are Unhealthy

Jackie Syrop

A high prevalence of food and beverage brand endorsements from professional athletes is directed toward American young people, and the majority of these advertisements are for unhealthy food and beverages.

A high prevalence of food and beverage brand endorsements from professional athletes is directed toward American adolescents, and a new study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University found that the majority of advertisements from sports figures was for unhealthy food and beverages. The study is published in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics.

Maria Bragg, MS, MPhil, and colleagues used data gathered by the advertisement databases Power100 and AdScope to assess the prevalence of athlete endorsement of food, the nutritional profile of foods endorsed by athletes, and youth exposure to athlete endorsements of food.

The researchers also selected 100 professional athletes and studied their endorsements — 512 brands were associated with these athletes. Food and beverages were the second largest categories of endorsed products after sporting goods.

The study found that adolescents saw more athlete-endorsed food commercials than adults, and that youth are exposed to professional athlete endorsement of foods that are energy dense and nutrient poor. The researchers found that LeBron James (NBA), Peyton Manning (NFL), and Serena Williams (Tennis) had more food and beverage endorsements than any other athletes examined.

Sports beverages were the largest individual category of athlete endorsements, followed by soft drinks and fast food. Calories in 93% of athlete-endorsed beverages came from added sugar.

Bragg noted the irony of the world’s most physically fit and well-known athletes promoting energy-dense, nutrient-poor products to America’s youth.