Unhealthy advertising infiltrates WA elite sport

Posted 16 Sep 2021.

We are calling for measures to protect children from the harmful marketing by junk food, alcohol and gambling companies, following new research that showed every fourth Instagram post by elite WA sporting teams promotes unhealthy behaviours.

Our study titled Unhealthy promotion in elite sport; when burgers aren't better monitored the Instagram posts of WA's top sporting teams including West Coast Eagles (men and women), Fremantle Dockers (men and women), Perth Wildcats, West Coast Fever and Perth Glory.

Our Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, said the snapshot of the sponsorship and promotional content of elite WA sporting teams highlighted the need for a policy that covers all sporting leagues to ban junk food, alcohol and gambling sponsorship, making way for pro-health sponsorships to be championed instead.

"Over a two-month period, these elite sporting teams posted a total of 1,122 times on Instagram and almost 300 of these posts contained junk food, alcohol and/or gambling promotions, due to their unhealthy partnerships," Ms Ledger said.

"Of the teams investigated, the Perth Wildcats had the highest frequency of junk food sponsors, with 69% of posts containing a junk food sponsor, due to the NBL's association with a major junk food sponsor. One of WA's most popular footy teams showed a junk food sponsor on 65% of their Instagram posts.

"Children are exposed to more than 40,000 television commercials per year1, on top of social media advertising, print, outdoor and broadcast advertising, and sports marketing and sponsorship.

"We know this exposure has a profound impact and is associated with earlier onset and higher consumption of alcohol, and the request and purchasing of junk food products2."

Ms Ledger said a long-term goal is for a uniform policy to allow for the cohesion across all sports, providing children with an environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

"Healthy partnerships are possible. We have seen examples of marketing environments that are free from junk food, alcohol and gambling promotion through Heathway's partnership with the West Coast Fever and Perth Glory," she said.

"Our elite athletes are role models for our kids; 64% of the posts on West Coast Fever's Instagram account contained pro-health promotional material.

"As we did when tobacco sponsorship was phased out, we need government to step in and find alternative ways to support and promote sport and our athletes.

"The impact of junk food, alcohol and gambling sponsorship on our children, our families and inevitably our health system is a high price to pay."

For more information:

  • To view the full report, click here.
(Wilcox, 2001)
(Kelly, 2011; Grunseit et al., 2012; Kingsland et al., 2017).


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