Public Health Nutrition

Marketing and communication

The use of sports references in marketing of food and beverage products in supermarkets

Marie A Bragga1 c1, Peggy J Liua1, Christina A Robertoa1, Vishnu Sardaa1, Jennifer L Harrisa1 and Kelly D Brownella1

a1 Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, 309 Edwards Street, New Haven, CT 06511, USA


Objective Food marketing has been identified as a significant driver of the childhood obesity epidemic. The purpose of the present study was to (i) conduct a content analysis of the types of sports references that appear on supermarket food and beverage products and (ii) assess each product's nutritional and marketing profile.

Design This was a descriptive study. Every product featuring sports references on the packaging was purchased in two major supermarkets during 2010. A content analysis was conducted and nutritional evaluations were made based on the Nutrient Profile Model, a validated nutrition model. Marketing data were obtained from The Nielsen Company.

Setting Two major supermarkets in Connecticut, USA.

Subjects Food and beverage products (n 102) were selected from two supermarkets.

Results The 102 products (fifty-three foods and forty-nine beverages) had sports references as part of their packaging: 72·5 % featured a character exercising, 42·2 % were endorsed by a professional sports entity and 34·0 % were child-targeted. The median nutrition score for food products was 36 (1 = unhealthiest and 100 = healthiest; scores of ≥63 are considered healthy according to this model). More than two-thirds of beverages (69·4 %) were 100 % sugar-sweetened. Children saw significantly more commercials for these products than adults.

Conclusions Companies place sports figures on food and beverage products that are child-targeted and unhealthy.

(Received September 23 2011)

(Revised May 09 2012)

(Accepted May 15 2012)

(Online publication July 02 2012)


  • Food marketing;
  • Sports;
  • Obesity


c1 Corresponding author: Email