WAT-AAH! Foundation Releases Results of Study on Impact Of Celebrities In Food And Beverage Advertising On Kids And Teens

NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — A new study commissioned by the WAT-AAH! Foundation, in conjunction with Fit Kids, finds that celebrity-endorsed food and beverage advertising campaigns are emotionally and effectively driving America’s youth to product consumption. Directly from the perspective of kids, the study shows the impact and influence these commercials and celebrities have on their generation as well as how these endorsements raised troubling concerns among kids and teens. “If the celebrities know these products are bad for us, why are they promoting it … Most of the time, celebrities don’t care about the product they only care about getting promoted or getting money.

The respondents surveyed in the study unanimously believed that the test commercials use of powerful celebrities indicated that the target audience was kids and teens, contrary to what fast food and beverage brands claim about their commercials’ intended audience.  The commercials featured celebrities such as Beyonce, LeBron James, Taylor Swift, Peyton Manning, Dwayne Wadeand others. The study showed that kids and teens strongly revere and consider these celebrities as “role models” and are “inspired” by their many attributes: “successful, wealthy, champions, creative, amazing, family-oriented, cool, attractive, and smart.” Because of this association, they admitted that their age group is the most susceptible to celebrity advertising and most likely to take action or try the products purely because of the celebrities’ appearance in the ad. Below are a few examples of their responses:

  • When I first saw LeBron James (Sprite commercial), I was like ‘wow.’ I would probably buy it because he’s a celebrity and he’s my role model.”
  • “The commercial reminded me of Michael Jackson. Kids who don’t drink Pepsi will drink it now after seeing Beyonce.”
  • “Diet Coke was trying to sway us to buy their product because if you see Taylor Swift drinking it, it’s going to make you want to drink it too.”

“Asking kids what they think? What a concept,” says Marion Nestle Ph.D., M.P.H., Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU. “The results of this study clearly show how the use of celebrities to promote foods and drinks influences kids’ desire for the products. This is reason enough to stop the practice. The study also shows that when kids are asked to take a good hard look at why food and beverage companies use celebrities, their opinions change,” she says.

After a discussion on the celebrities’ motivation for the endorsement and the health effects of the products advertised, the children’s purchase intent dropped significantly from 77% to 23%.  “They make you believe that as soon as you drink it, you supposed to turn into superman and do all these great things. But it is not actually true. It can make you unhealthy.” A majority of the children also questioned the likelihood that celebrities consume the products they are endorsing on a regular basis. “I think its a little weird that they (LeBron James, Dwight Howard) are fighting over McDonald’s. You wouldn’t expect a fit person to eat McDonald’s because they probably try to stay healthy to play the sport they play.” “These commercials make me think that I really can’t trust them.”

Despite the children’s concerns, they admitted to having enjoyed watching the commercials and believed that the celebrities should repurpose their power and influence for the betterment of kids and their fans. “If you make commercials, do it for healthy products like vegetables, fruits, water or milk, make it as fun and cool as your Sprite commercial (LeBron James).” “If you have to make these commercials for money and publicity, tell us not to eat or drink too much or tell us about the bad stuff that’s in it.”

“Kids really look up to these celebrities, they love to watch them on television and they are significantly influenced by them. The insights these kids shed on what the celebrities themselves can do to turn this health crisis around was inspiring,” says Rose Cameron, CEO/Founder of the WAT-AAH! Foundation. “Celebrities could be utilized to promote a healthier agenda, it can make a huge difference. That’s what the kids are really saying in this study,” she adds.

The study consisted of a series of hour-long focus groups held with 166 kids, ages 8-17, in markets including: Atlanta, Boston,Chicago, New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C. and Virginia. Eight commercials were used as test material which included one or more celebrities from the music and/or sports industries promoting a food or beverage product from companies such as Sprite, Gatorade, Diet Coke, Pepsi, and McDonald’s.

To obtain a full copy of the study, please call the WAT-AAH Foundation at 212 627 2630.

The WAT-AAH! Foundation was established in 2012 as the philanthropic arm of WAT-AAH!, to improve the lives of children through working with organizations dedicated to keeping kids healthy, creative and active. To learn more visit www.wat-aahfoundation.com

Fit Kids is a physical education program ounded by Cindy Anderson. Fit Kids offers noncompetitive physical education programs and classes which stresses thinking as well as doing.  To learn more visit http://www.fitkids123.com/.