Athletes influencing kids to eat 'junk food'

“I use it, so you should too.” It’s the oldest ad strategy there is. But according to a new study, athletes need to be more responsible with what they endorse.

"One million free Papa Johns pizzas. Great 2 million Papa Johns pizzas." (via Papa Johns)

"Hey Coca-Cola, it's me LeBron James." (via Coca-Cola)

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, shows that of the 62 food and beverage products endorsed by athletes in 2010, nearly 80 percent of them fell in the junk food category.

One lead researcher on the study told The Globe and Mail, "Professional athletes wouldn't endorse tobacco today because it would be a liability for them … We're hoping one day that the same would be true for unhealthy foods."

But even the researchers acknowledge, tearing Papa Johns away from Peyton Manning or McDonalds from Lebron James is a long shot.

Peyton Manning brings in an estimated $12 million for endorsement deals like Papa John's, Gatorade and Buick. (via Forbes)

While King James rakes in an estimated $42 million from endorsements with companies including McDonalds, Coca Cola and Nike.

And remember, this is not a new thing. Athletes pass down endorsements like ‘hand me down’ clothes.

“What you got in the bag?”

“Big Mac, fries”

"I'll play you for it?" (via Youtube / Justin Briggs)

“What you got in the bag?”

“Big Mac, fries"

"I'll play you for it?" (via Youtube / McDonalds All American)

What is new is the strong criticism of junk food and the awareness of its effects. The other big problem outlined by researchers is who’s watching these commercials.

In 2010 children aged 12 to 17 years old saw the most athlete endorsed food and beverage ads. (via CBS)

Still, one sports marketing agency told NBC athletes are easy targets, "I guarantee that in a few years (health watchdogs) will say that (smart phones), with all the texting going on, constitutes an unhealthy lifestyle … " (via NBC)

According to the study, Lebron James, Peyton Manning and Serena Williams provided the most marketing of energy dense and nutrient poor foods.

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