“Eat your vegetables and you will grow up to be big and strong” These words have been uttered to children in almost every household. The problem is that in today’s TV and tech-filled world advertisers at major sporting events are gaining the upper hand in the healthy lifestyle debate. We are quickly approaching one of the most watched sporting events in television, the Summer Olympics. Elite athletes competing for the glory of a gold medal. Health and physical activity will take centre stage. So, where does fast food and soda fit into the picture? How will advertising at the upcoming Olympics games impact the health of my kids?
Our entire household is excited about the London Olympics. There is nothing quite like watching a person pouring all their emotion and strength into something they are so utterly passionate about. During the Olympics, our television will be turned on almost all the time. This is very different from our regular day to day life. We keep television screening to a minimum and when we do watch we can fast forward past commercials.
A recent article on the BBC’s News Health website has me thinking long and hard about the Olympics, advertising and my children’s health. The article raised the question, will the advertisements from the Olympics official advertisers lead to an increase in childhood obesity? When you consider that a few of the major sponsors are Cadbury, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, it does make you wonder.
The article quotes Professor Lavie from UCL’s Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience “The adverts will only be perceived very briefly but under some circumstances this would subject the viewer to subliminal processing. This means the viewer is not free to choose what they have processed.” In other words, viewers are watching the runners race around the track, but the advert on the stadium wall is making a subliminal imprint on our brains. We don’t have any choice in the matter. This form of advertising works on adults, who have the ability to make responsible choices, imagine the impact on the millions of children around the world who will be watching.
The danger also lies in the implied endorsement of these dietary choices by athletes. While the athletes are not necessarily holding up the cheese burger and drinking the soda, the endorsement is implied. Are kids today savvy enough to understand that these elite athletes did not rise to the top of their sport based on a diet of fast food and cola? I’m not so sure.
I know that we will be having many discussion with our daughters about diet and lifestyle choices during the Olympics. After all, most decisions in an athlete’s life have revolved around reaching their ultimate goal, being the best in their sport. I hope that through these discussions our girls will learn that it is important to separate the athlete from the advertiser.
What discussions will take place at your dinner table around the Olympics and advertising?