Current and former professional athletes frequently endorse particular brands and products, and they are often viewed as credible sources of knowledge on living a healthy life. Previous studies have found that parents are more likely to purchase food products marketed by a professional athlete because they are perceived as being healthier. In a study in the November 2013 Pediatrics, “Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing,” (published online Oct. 7), information was collected from 100 professional athletes ranked by their popularity and endorsement value. Researchers tracked 512 brands associated with the athletes, with sporting goods or apparel ranking highest at 28.3 percent, food and beverages at 23.8 percent, and consumer goods coming in at 10.9 percent. LeBron James, Peyton Manning, and Serena Williams had more food and beverage endorsements than any other athlete, and they were the highest contributors in the marketing of energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods. In 2010, children aged 12 to 17 years of age saw the most athlete-endorsed food and beverage brand commercials, followed by adults. A majority of the food and beverage brand endorsements were for sports beverages, soft drinks and fast food. Ninety-three percent of the 46 beverages being endorsed by athletes received 100 percent of their calories from added sugars. Study authors conclude that promoting unhealthy food and drinks by well-known and physically fit celebrities sends a mixed message to children about diet and health. Professional athletes should be aware of the health value of the products they are endorsing, and should use their status and celebrity to promote healthy messages to youth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.