WA health experts say junk food and sugary drink sponsorships have no place in sport

Updated 5 Aug 2021.

WA's peak public health and medical experts have united in their call to end the sponsorship of sport by junk food companies, with one of the largest junk food companies in the world granted official sponsorship of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

Our CEO, Ashley Reid, said the time has come to question unhealthy sponsorship of sport by junk food and sugary drink companies; a call backed by the Telethon Kids Institute, the Australian Dental Association (WA), and six other public health and medical groups in WA, as well as national organisations Parents' Voice and the Obesity Policy Coalition.

"With Coca-Cola being granted ‘Worldwide Olympic Partner' of this year's Olympic Games in Japan, millions of children and families around the world are being exposed to marketing messages pushing these sugar-laden products," Mr Reid said.

"Coca-Cola is also an official partner of the Australian Olympic Team, as is the global confectionary company Cadbury, while fast-food giant McDonald's is a broadcast partner of the Tokyo Olympics coverage in Australia."

Mr Reid said that junk food and sugary drinks are not everyday foods, yet this type of sponsorship of elite and community sports normalises their consumption.

"We know that regularly drinking sugary drinks and eating foods high in fat, sugar and salt contributes to weight gain," he said.

"One-quarter of children1 and two-thirds of adults2 are above a healthy weight, and we know that this increases the risk of many chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, as well as 13 types of cancer.

"Healthy partnerships are possible - we have seen this with the successful partnerships between Healthway and Perth Glory and the West Coast Fever."

Telethon Kids Institute Executive Director, Professor Jonathan Carapetis AM, said we need to protect the community from industry tactics designed to maximise profits and support children and families in their efforts to be healthy .

"Our elite athletes are role models for our kids, and recent studies have shown that endorsement of a product by an athlete increases brand recognition and sales, particularly by children," Professor Carapetis said.

"It is clear from what happened with Cristiano Ronaldo at the Euros that the world's best athletes understand that associating themselves with unhealthy products like sugary drinks and junk food sends the wrong message to their millions of followers, but it shouldn't have to be up to the athletes to take this on by themselves.

"It is a conflicting message, especially for children; celebrating athleticism and physical activity on one hand, while being bombarded by junk food and sugary drink marketing on the other.

"As we did when tobacco sponsorship was ended, we need government to step in and find alternative ways to support and promote sport and our athletes. The impact of junk food and sugary drinks on our children, our families and inevitably our health system is a high price to pay."

More information

  • LiveLighter® is funded by the WA Department of Health and delivered by Cancer Council WA.
  • More information is available via the LiveLighter website about how to make small lifestyle changes to improve people's health.
  • It is estimated that in Australia in 2013, almost 5200 cancer cases were attributed to being above a healthy weight3.
  • In Western Australia in 2015, 7.8 per cent of the total cancer burden was attributed to being above a healthy body weight, the second leading preventable risk factor for cancer behind tobacco use4.
  • The number of cancer cases attributed to being above a healthy weight is likely to grow over time as obesity rates continue to increase5.
1Marema M, Radomiljac A. Health and Wellbeing of Children in Western Australia 2017, Overview and Trends. Perth (WA): Department of Health; 2018.
2Marema, Radomiljac A. Health and Wellbeing of Adults in Western Australia 2017, Overview and Trends. Perth: Department of Health; 2018.
3https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.31088
4Department of Health WA, 2020
5Pearson-Stuttard, 2018

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