Is Junk Food Promoted Through Sport?
Energy-dense diets are associated with obesity, a major public health problem. High participation rates in sport suggest sports settings may be an ideal environment to influence food choices and promote healthy eating. Yet little is known about the marketing and availability of food and beverages in this setting. This thesis analysed the food and nutrition environment in New Zealand sport to determine whether energy-dense, nutrient-poor food and beverages (‘junk food’) are marketed and available in this context. This case study was undertaken in two phases using a mixed methods approach. Phase One included a systematic literature review, 18 interviews with key informants from national and regional sporting organisations and an analysis of 308 websites of national and regional sporting organisations. Phase Two involved a study of two exemplar sports, rugby and netball. Data were collected from direct observations of food marketing, and foods and beverages available at six regional and seven national netball and rugby venues, 25 rugby clubs and 13 netball centres in three regions. Thirty-seven interviews with rugby and netball key informants and analysis of sponsors observed during televised coverage of five national netball and rugby games were also undertaken. The characteristics and extent of food and beverage company marketing in New Zealand sport differed between sports and within different levels of sport. National and regional levels of popular sports were more favoured by sponsors. The review of websites found that almost one-third of food and beverage companies sponsoring national and regional sporting organisations and rugby clubs were unhealthy. Observations at venues found little food and beverage company marketing at rugby clubs, netball centres or netball clubs. All key informants identified the main benefit of sponsorship as the additional income sponsors provided. Interviews revealed that although some sports organisations felt concerned about associating themselves with unhealthy food or beverage companies others considered sponsorship income more important. Energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages dominated the types of food and beverages available at sports games. Most venues sold more unhealthy than healthy foods and beverages. Most informants considered these were normal foods and beverages to provide in sports settings. While many informants considered healthy food important none had implemented policy in their sports organisation. Food provision was determined by caterers motivated by profit. Sport provides food and beverage companies with an unregulated setting in which to market food and beverages. This case study found food and beverage company sponsorship is associated with high profile, televised teams which attract international audiences. The marketing campaigns supporting these sponsorships likely influence food preferences and purchases.Food environments in sport settings provide frequent opportunities to purchase and consume energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. Achieving sustainable healthy change in sports settings will be challenging when the prevailing attitude normalises the unhealthy environment. New Zealand is a small country with popular sports different to those in other countries. Nevertheless these findings may be relevant elsewhere. There are implications for further research to strengthen understanding of food environments in sports settings.
Advisor: Signal, Louise; Edwards, Richard; Hoek, Janet
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Public Health
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Sport; obesity; Junk Food; New Zealand
Research Type: Thesis