Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pro Athletes Hawking UnHealthy Foods: LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Serena Williams

Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy summarized findings of a recent study analyzing food endorsements by sports celebrities by concluding:
"The promotion of energy-dense, nutrient-poor products by some of the world’s most physically fit and well-known athletes is an ironic combination that sends mixed messages about diet and health."
That's muted academic-speak to say that professional athletes are hypocrites for endorsing junk food. But endorse they do... to the tune of millions of dollars in rich endorsement deals. 

The fascinating study, published in the Pediatrics journal in November 2013, found that of the 100 professional athletes with the highest-value endorsements in 2010:

  • They were paid to promote 44 different food and beverage brands
  • Food and beverage brands were the second largest category of endorsements, behind only sporting goods 
  • 79% of their 62 food endorsements were for fast food or junk food
  • 93% of their beverage endorsements were for drinks with "100% of calories from added sugar"
The biggest hypocritical fast-food offenders among health-conscious, physically fine-tuned professional athletes?

Peyton Manning (pictured below), reportedly earns $10 million per year from Papa John's pizza, Gatorade (owned by PepsiCo), Wheaties (General Mills), as well as DirectTV and Sony. In 2012, NFL quarterback Manning bought 21 Papa John franchises in Colorado.

LeBron James, NBA superstar, "received $5 million to endorse Bubblicious Gum, including his own flavor, LeBron's Lightening Lemonade," in addition to his lucrative contracts with McDonalds, Sprite, and Powerade.

Joe Maurer, six-time All Star baseball player and Minnesota Twins catcher, peddles Pepsi-cola, Gatorade, and Kemps ice cream, including Joe Maurer-blessed Grand Slam Monster Cookie flavor ice cream and a limited-edition 12-pack of Joe Maurer ice cream sandwiches. 

Serena Williams, perhaps the all-time greatest woman tennis champion, endorses Oreo cookies (owned by Kraft/Nabisco), Gatorade (owned by PepsiCo), and Nabisco 100-Calorie Snack Packs. 

Kobe Bryant, 15-time NBA All-Star and Los Angeles Laker team captain, is rumored to earn a whopping $12 million annually solely from his contract to push McDonald's menu. 

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR driver, is paid to shill for Mountain Dew, Hellman's/Best Foods Mayonnaise, and Amp Energy, a "flavor extension of the Mountain Dew brand", which is owned by PepsiCo.

Sports celebrities endorsing fast food, junk food, and/or sugary drinks hail from football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, skateboarding, even Olympic sports as speed skating. 

Without exception, professional athletes promoting "energy-dense, nutrient-poor products" are extraordinarily fit physically, and must adhere to a disciplined, health-conscious diet.  

Yet, the food and beverages they endorse to Americans... particularly to U.S. children... are unhealthy. 

Kids revere and often long to emulate professional athletes as LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Serena Williams, Joe Maurer, Kobe Bryant, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Which, of course, is why fake-food corporations dangle million-dollar contracts to entice popular athletes to lend cache and credibility to their unhealthy fare.  And per the study, "research shows that athlete endorsements are associated with higher healthfulness ratings on the products they endorse." 

Greedy industrial food mega-corporations will do what it takes to sell their highly processed, salty, sugary, fatty food products. That's a sad given in 2013. 

But professional athletes know better. In their own lives, they do better. But certain athletes choose to enrich themselves by hawking an unhealthy dietary mantra to the American public.   

Exhorted the study, "The promotion of energy-dense, nutrient-poor products by some of the world’s most physically fit and well-known athletes is an ironic combination that sends mixed messages about diet and health."

Indeed! I wonder... do these athletes feed a steady diet of fast food, soft drinks, and junk food to their children and loved ones? 


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