The Culture of Food and Beverage Marketing in Children's Sport: What does it look like and how do parents experience?

  • Author / Creator
    Prowse, Rachel Joyce Lian
  • Unhealthy food and beverage marketing impacts dietary attitudes and behaviours of children and youth and is a risk factor for childhood obesity. Canada is exploring policy options to restrict unhealthy food marketing to children, as recommended by the World Health Organization. However, the Government of Canada is proposing to exempt children's sport sponsorship from the marketing regulation due to concerns of negative impacts on sport access. Using sport to market products is a recognized strategy in many commercial sectors including the food industry. When unhealthy food marketing includes some aspect of physical activity, individuals misperceive those foods to be healthy, creating a health halo. The health halo attached to food marketing with sports or physical activity is concerning for public health. The goal of this research was to investigate the nature and extent of food and beverage marketing in recreation facilities and to understand parents’ perceptions of food and beverage marketing in recreation facilities. Using an explanatory sequential mixed methods study design driven by critical realism, we assessed the objective and perceived food marketing environments in recreation facilities. Two types of interventions on food marketing environments were evaluated using a reliable, validated tool [Food and beverage Marketing Assessment Tool (FoodMATS)]: (a) having voluntary provincial nutrition guidelines (through a natural experiment between three provinces with provincial nutrition guidelines for recreation and one province without nutrition guidelines), and (b) a capacity-building intervention (CBI) to improve food marketing environments (via a randomized controlled trial in recreation facilities in provinces with voluntary nutrition guidelines). Next, we explored the culture of food and beverage marketing in and around children’s sport and physical activity in municipal recreation facilities from parents’ perceptions through a photo-based focused ethnography study.The first study found that food and beverage marketing was present in almost all recreation facilities, and approximately half were for unhealthy foods and beverages products, brands, and retailers. Recreation facilities in provinces with voluntary provincial nutrition guidelines had a significantly lower proportion of unhealthy food and beverage marketing than recreation facilities in a province without nutrition guidelines, but did not have different levels of exposure to food and beverage marketing. Recreation facilities that participated in the CBI did not improve their food marketing environments after the 18-month intervention period. Parents had a low awareness of the breadth of food marketing, mentioning food marketing from concessions and vending most often. Parents believed children were impacted by certain visual food marketing influences present in recreation facilities, but were less sure whether or how other types of marketing (e.g. sport sponsorship) have impacts. Parents reported using a variety of strategies to reduce their children’s unhealthy food requests and choices in recreation facilities. This research is extremely timely with the spotlight on food marketing to children in Canada. In order to effectively protect children from unhealthy food marketing, the field should reflect on how to define the problem and generate policies that will change the exposure to and power of unhealthy food marketing in children’s lives, including recreation settings. Current approaches may fail to shift food marketing environments in recreation facilities. Critical social marketing may be a suitable approach for public health researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers to bridge commercial and social marketing through upstream and downstream actions that will generate health promoting food marketing environments in recreation facilities supportive of healthy diets in children.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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