Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Competitive sport and junk food should not go hand in hand. Consumers International’s social media campaign during the World Cup in Brazil this month demonstrates that unfortunately they often do, says CI's Nora Blascsok.

The tournament is being used by the food industry to market unhealthy food. Coca Cola is one of FIFA’s major partners and McDonald’s is one of the first-tier World Cup sponsors.FIFA partners pay between $25-50 million each per year, while first tier sponsors pay between $15-20 million each. Besides sponsors, other companies like Pepsi, Domino’s and KFC use the World Cup to sell more food and drink products. According to consumer research firm Webloyalty, sales of unhealthy food and beverages tied to the World Cup will reach $459 million in the UK alone.

To highlight the problem, CI asked people to collect examples of adverts in which pictures of footballers and other images relating to the World Cup are used to advertise food and beverage products high in fat, salt or sugar.

These examples were then tweeted or posted on Facebook using the hashtag #JunkFoodWorldCup.

CI Members, as well as many other people on social media around the world, actively participated in the campaign.

Pictures of billboards, TV adverts, interactive marketing promos and publicity stunts involving famous footballers were published on social media, showing how truly global the reach of the food industry and its marketing machine is, especially during events like the World Cup (see our collection of pictures on Facebook).

The social media campaign has reached an estimated 76,090 accounts on Twitter, with the hashtag #JunkFoodWorldCup mentioned in 716 tweets over a period of nearly three weeks.

Many of the adverts tweeted or posted on Facebook use techniques that are known to be appealing to children.

Not only do they star footballers who are well-known and admired by children throughout the world, they also use bright colours, music and often contain an interactive element (such as competitions or games).

CI food expert Anna Glayzer points out: “If children see their favourite footballer advertising crisps or a highly sugared beverage, they will associate that product with sport and with being fit and healthy.”

200 million children globally are either overweight or obese, with 40-50 million classified as obese.

Obesity in childhood has a high likelihood of leading to diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer in adulthood.

Currently 2.1 billion people are obese and overweight worldwide.

CI is campaigning for global action to address the marketing of unhealthy food. In our publication, Recommendations towards a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets, CI calls on governments to restrict advertising that is likely to create an erroneous impression about a product’s health benefits and other characteristics, and to prohibit or restrict the sponsorship of international events by companies and brands associated with unhealthy foods and beverages.

You can see some of the images posted to Twitter  which show the extent of 2014's junk food promoting World Cup. 

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