It is very common to see celebrities on commercials or in advertisements, promoting the latest sports car, the next hottest shoe, or the newest food or drink items on the market.
At times, the dairy industry has used celebrities to promote dairy products, from the "Got Milk?" campaign of former years to NFL Quarterback Cam Newton's current role as the spokesperson for Oikos yogurt.
Unfortunately, most celebrity-endorsed foods are not nearly as nutritious as milk and yogurt. In fact, a study by New York University's Langone Medical Center found that a majority of the foods and drinks endorsed by celebrities are unhealthy. This descriptive study, "Popular Music Celebrity Endorsements in Food and Nonalcoholic Beverage Marketing," was recently published in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers looked specifically at musical pop stars used to promote products and studied some television, print, and radio advertisements that ran between 2000 and 2014. Of the 590 endorsements made by 163 celebrities in the study's sample set, 18 percent were for food or beverages.
There were 65 celebrities associated with 57 different food and beverage brands. Almost three-fourths (71 percent) of the nonalcoholic beverage endorsements promoted sugar-sweetened beverages. Even worse, almost 81 percent of the 26 endorsed food products were energy dense and nutrient poor.
None of the pop stars studied were spokespeople for fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Only one food that was considered healthy under the researchers' ranking criteria, Wonderful Pistachios, was celebrity endorsed.
Previous research has shown that food and beverage marketing is a big contributor to childhood obesity. Food and beverage companies spend an estimated $2 billion annually on youth-targeted advertising alone.
While many food companies have agreed to not target children under the age of 12, adolescents seem to be fair game and a major focus. The use of superstars in marketing can help improve brand recognition and reputation, making these products, most of which are unhealthy, even more appealing to impressionable teenagers.
June 13, 2016