Pop-stars peddling soda
All the bright lights and dazzling dance moves weren't enough to undo the harmful message sent to our nation's children by Beyonce during the Super Bowl's half-time show on Sunday night.
In addition to her performance, 100 fans were given the opportunity to join her onstage. The fans that got up close and personal with her were selected from a contest run by Pepsi that allowed fans to submit photos of themselves in various singing and dancing poses. The contest was part of Beyonce’s $50 million dollar deal with Pepsi that includes standard advertising as well as a multimillion-dollar fund to support the singer’s chosen creative products.
That’s right, the singer who publically advocated for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, a campaign dedicated to fighting childhood obesity, is now being paid $50 million to peddle a product that contributes to obesity.
The New York Times’ Mark Bittman describes her 180 degree move nicely in his January 5th op-ed: "Knowles is renting her image to a product that may one day be ranked with cigarettes as a killer we were too slow to rein in. From saying, as she once did in referring to Let’s Move, that she was 'excited to be part of this effort that addresses a public health crisis,' she’s become part of an effort that promotes a public health crisis."
I don’t mean to single out Beyonce. Other celebrities who have promoted big soda include LeBron James, Madonna and Elton John to name just a few. Just recently, Taylor Swift signed a contract to be the face of Diet Coke’s “Stay Extraordinary” marketing campaign, which according to the campaign, celebrates self-assured and aspirational people who enjoy Diet Coke as part of their daily routines.
So what’s the problem?
All of these celebrities serve as idols for young people. These celebrities, most of whom our children look up to and admire, are promoting a product that can damage their health. Research in the journal Diabetes Care shows that these drinks increase the risk for obesity and diabetes, and research in the Lancet shows that drinking just one 8-ounce sugary drink every day increases a child’s odds of becoming obese by 60 percent.
The industry has pledged to market fewer unhealthy beverages to children but our group at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity released a report in October of 2011 that found that children are actually being exposed to more – not less – advertising for these sugary drinks. In fact, 46 percent of all full-calorie soda and energy drink ads on national TV feature celebrities. Soda companies are using celebrity sponsorships to talk to our children and to circumvent their own promises.
As parents we have an extremely hard job balancing our children’s admiration for these pop-stars and the messages they are promoting. In a recent blog on the Huffington Post, Food Writer Kristen Wartman says “Americans should start demanding that our government regulate Big Food.” Currently there is no government regulation on food marketing to children. The only standards we have to protect our children from food marketing are set by the industry itself.
Even though soda companies have promised that they won’t advertise to children 11 years and under, they openly target “teens” including 12-14 year olds. In order to protect our children, we must hold the industry and celebrities accountable for marketing sugary drinks and junk food to children.