Olympic SpokesTeens: A new low for nutrition and young athletes?

Olympic SpokesTeens: A new low for nutrition and young athletes?

2/11/2015

By: Jill Castle, Guest Contributor
Co-author of Fearless Feeding

Elmo has nothing over an Olympic athlete, not in the minds of kids and teens, anyway. While Elmo promotes fruit and vegetables (along with Mrs. Obama), teen Olympians appeared in food ads for food products that aren’t ideal for any young athlete, let alone an Olympian.
 
While we've seen our fair share of adult athletes like Michael Phelps and LeBron James peddling unhealthy products to kids, this latest marketing push involving younger athletes, teen Olympians no less, promotes junky food to kids.
 
Kids almost always listen to pro athletes and Olympians. Even I admit to being taken by Bruce Jenner on the Wheaties box as a young basketball player.
 
But teen Olympian ambassadors are a unique and untapped resource for marketers. In marketing research, the use of teen ambassadors has been shown to be an effective way to communicate and market to other teens. Which is terrific if they’re sending the right message. But if they’re promoting food like a McDonald’s Big Mac (like 19 year old US Olympic freestyle skier Torin Yater-Wallace in Sochi earlier this year), it’s easy to see where the wrong message takes shape.

What bothers me the most about teen Olympians promoting unhealthy food, aside from the misuse of their role model status, is this:

Teen Olympians may not be aware of their impact on the health of other kids and teens.
Just because they are Olympians, doesn’t mean they are more mature or skipping through the normal developmental stage of adolescence. As a group, teens have a “here and now” focus, not a long-term one.
Teen Olympians sell unhealthy products without the real knowledge of how they are shaping the food choices, health and performance of young athletes in the long run.

 I recognize that a spokesperson position is a desirable outcome for an athlete—it assures long-term income and recognition. But when the teen Olympian says, "I don't really care what I eat for breakfast," that sums up the problem right there.
 
I believe we've hit a new low when we pull teen Olympians to sell unhealthy food to other teens, even athletes. It's time to stop the madness of food marketing to children and teens.
 
What do you think about using teen Olympians to market poor food to our aspiring kids and teens?
 
If you are opposed, take action by signing this petition from Corporate Accountability International, and let your voice be heard!

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