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Majority of professional athlete endorsements are for junk food

Sunday, October 13, 2013 by: Shane Jones
Tags: junk food, professional athletes, product endorsements

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(NaturalNews) It is no secret that pro athletes endorse a variety of products. These product endorsements serve as large sources of income for famous athletes, as they are often much larger sums than their sporting contracts.

Shoes, clothing, food and beverages are all examples of items that are commonly endorsed by athletes across a variety of advertising formats. While these endorsements are usually harmless product promotion, a recent trend toward junk food endorsements raises concern.

Star Endorsements

Lebron James, Serena Williams and Peyton Manning are examples of big-name celebrities who are currently endorsing food items that are far from nutritious. Considering that these athletes represent people who rely on being in excellent physical shape, endorsing calorie-dense foods sends people a mixed message.

Also, the study went on to mention Kobe Bryant, another basketball star who is known for his endorsements for McDonald's. As for the other athletes, Peyton Manning has recently become a figure in Papa John's commercials, while Lebron James is currently endorsing Bubblicious Gum and has his own flavor.


The aforementioned athletes are not alone, as a study featured in the Los Angeles Times reported that 122 of the 512 brands currently endorsed by top athletes are for food or beverage companies. Out of these 122 brand endorsements, 80% of the 49 food endorsements were for foods that are calorie-dense and lacking nutrients. Regarding the 73 beverages, 93% of the endorsements were for drinks with a calorie content completely made up of added sugar.

Health Promotion

The researchers who conducted this study noted the unique position that pro athletes find themselves in. As some of the most physically fit people in the world, they have the opportunity to give health advice that will receive large exposure. Instead, they promote foods and beverages that negatively impact health.

To make matters worse, the audience that sees these commercials in the highest volume proved to be young teenagers ranging in age from 12 to 17. As if this age group wasn't already impressionable enough, they are the main audience for their favorite sports star's promotions for junk food. During a time period in which young people should receive health advice, they are instead being persuaded to drink soda and eat fast food.

Research Methods

In order to conduct this study, researchers compiled a list of the top 100 athletes in the world. From there, they watched advertisements featuring these athletes and analyzed the nutritional quality of the foods and beverage being promoted. After developing a scoring system based on this nutritional information, the researchers were able to rank athletes in terms of the nutritional quality of the foods and beverages they endorse.

For some, this represents a chance to help the youth. One business, 12 Keys Rehabilitation has taken action to developing programs to help the youth struggling with the health implications as a result of these unhealthy endorsements.


Three of the aforementioned athletes represented the biggest culprits in terms of endorsing low-quality food items, as Manning, Williams and James topped the list in respective order. As for results for professional sports leagues in general, the National Basketball Association proved to have the most athletes endorsing junk food with 18. The NBA was followed by the National Football League's 10 junk food endorsements and Major League Baseball's 10.

This study raises many questions regarding the ethical implications of professional athlete endorsements. While endorsing signature clothing and shoes is one thing, negatively influencing the nutrition of the world's youth is another. Until junk food endorsements become a legal issue, companies will continue to offer large endorsements to a very willing group of professional athletes.

About the author:
Shane is the co-founder of a social enterprise, The Happiness Theory that aims to understand exactly how to stay happy and healthy by living a fulfilled life.

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