“Aboriginal and Non- Aboriginal kids are being inundated with the advertising of alcohol, junk food and gambling through AFL sponsorship deals according to a new study.
With obesity and excessive drinking remaining a significant problem in our communities, it’s time for the AFL ladder of unhealthy sponsorship (see below) to end,
Children under the age of eight are particularly vulnerable to advertising because they lack the maturity and mental skills to evaluate the messages. Therefore, in the case of the AFL, they begin to associate unhealthy products with their favourite sport and players
We need to ask ourselves why Australia’s most popular winter sport is serving as a major advertising platform for soft drink, beer, wine, burgers and meat pies. It’s sending the wrong message to Australians that somehow these unhealthy foods and drinks are linked to the healthy activity of sport,”
Says the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA).
In the study published this week in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Australian researchers looked at the prevalence of sponsorship by alcohol, junk food and gambling companies on AFL club websites and on AFL player uniforms.
The findings were used to make an ‘AFL Sponsorship Ladder’, a ranking of AFL clubs in terms of their level of unhealthy sponsorships, with those at the top of the ladder having the highest level of unhealthy sponsors.
The study clearly demonstrated that Australia’s most popular spectator sport is saturated with unhealthy advertising.
Download PDF Copy of report NACCHO Unhealthy sponsors of sport
Ainslie Sartori, one of the authors involved in the research confirmed, “After reviewing the sponsorship deals of AFL clubs, we found that 88% of clubs are sponsored by unhealthy food and beverage companies. A third of AFL clubs are also involved in business partnerships with gambling companies.”
Sponsorship offers companies an avenue to expose children and young people to their brand, encouraging a connection with that brand.
The AFL could reinforce healthy lifestyle choices by shifting the focus away from the visual presence of unhealthy sponsorship, while taking steps to ensure that clubs remain commercially viable.
Policy makers are encouraged to consider innovative health promotion strategies and work
with sporting clubs and codes to ensure healthy messages are prominent
The study noted that children are often the targets of AFL advertising. This is despite World Health Organization recommendations that children’s settings should be free of unhealthy food promotions and branding (including through sport) due to the known risk it poses to their diet and chances of developing obesity.
PHAA CEO Terry Slevin commented, “When Australian kids see their sports heroes wearing a uniform plastered with certain brands, they inevitably start to associate these brands with the player they look up to and with the positive and healthy experience of the sport.”
He added, “The AFL is in a unique position to positively influence the health of Australian kids through banning sponsorship by alcohol, junk food and gambling companies. It could instead reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle for them.”
“Australian health policy makers need to consider innovative health promotion strategies and work together with sport clubs and codes to ensure that unhealthy advertising is not a feature. We successfully removed tobacco advertising from sport and we can do it with junk food and gambling too,” Mr Slevin said.
The recently released Sport 2030 plan rightly identifies sport as a positive vehicle to promote good health. But elite “corporate sport” plays a role of bypassing restrictions aimed at reducing exposure of children to unhealthy product marketing.
“The evidence is clear – it’s time for Australia to phase out all unhealthy sponsorship of sport,” Mr Slevin conclude