This study quantified professional athletes’ endorsement of food and beverages, evaluated the nutritional quality of endorsed products, and determined the number of television commercial exposures of athlete-endorsement commercials for children, adolescents, and adults.
One hundred professional athletes were selected on the basis of Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2010 Power 100 rankings, which ranks athletes according to their endorsement value and prominence in their sport. Endorsement information was gathered from the Power 100 list and the advertisement database AdScope. Endorsements were sorted into 11 endorsement categories (eg, food/beverages, sports apparel). The nutritional quality of the foods featured in athlete-endorsement advertisements was assessed by using a Nutrient Profiling Index, whereas beverages were evaluated on the basis of the percentage of calories from added sugar. Marketing data were collected from AdScope and Nielsen.
Of 512 brands endorsed by 100 different athletes, sporting goods/apparel represented the largest category (28.3%), followed by food/beverages (23.8%) and consumer goods (10.9%). Professional athletes in this sample were associated with 44 different food or beverage brands during 2010. Seventy-nine percent of the 62 food products in athlete-endorsed advertisements were energy-dense and nutrient-poor, and 93.4% of the 46 advertised beverages had 100% of calories from added sugar. Peyton Manning (professional American football player) and LeBron James (professional basketball player) had the most endorsements for energy-dense, nutrient-poor products. Adolescents saw the most television commercials that featured athlete endorsements of food.
Youth are exposed to professional athlete endorsements of food products that are energy-dense and nutrient-poor.