Cancer Council NSW recently complained to Ad Standards about vouchers for fast food being awarded to children for their sports achievements. These complaints about the pizza, burger and ice cream chains were upheld, with Ad Standards agreeing that these unhealthy foods should not have been promoted to kids in this way.
But what message do kids get from this association of sport and junk food? And what does it say about a self-regulatory system that is supposed to protect children from this sort of junk food marketing?
Our previous research showed children thought that the food and drink companies sponsoring their club and favourite team were ‘cool’ and they would like to return the favour to these sponsors by buying their products. Two-thirds of children could name at least one sponsor of their own sports club. That’s exactly why food companies want to align with sporting events, including kids sport.
But what about our kids’ health? These vouchers contribute to the sea of fast food and junk food promotions our children are exposed to. No wonder children 4-18 years are getting about 40% of their energy from processed foods that are higher in energy, added sugars, saturated fat and sodium and offer little nutritional value.
It’s largely left to the food and advertising industry to restrict children’s exposure to junk food marketing through a series of industry codes and voluntary initiatives. Yet examples like these show this approach is failing to protect children from sneaky industry tactics designed to target children and build brand and product awareness. In the rare cases that complaints are upheld, these marketing strategies have usually achieved their impact, appealing to children and encouraging them to purchase or request the advertised product. We need comprehensive government regulation to protect children from the range of ways junk food companies market to children, including on television, online and on public transport.
We saw these vouchers from Domino’s, Ben & Jerrys and Grill’d and complained but how many other fast food vouchers are there in circulation? How many other junk food companies are marketing to kids’ through these sporting achievement awards?
Has your child received a voucher for sport from a fast food company? Email us.