McDonald’s sponsorship of children’s sport

I, and others, have written about how problematic it is that companies which sell ultra-processed food also heavily target young people in their advertising. Even worse is when companies make children do the advertising themselves. See below this from Nottingham in the UK, March 2018: (photo credit: David O’B)

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Many sport organisations have safeguarding policies, but this does not seem to extend to protecting children from exploitation by companies selling all manner of ultra-processed food.

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What is physical activity? A definition

The definition offered below differs from recent policy definitions of physical activity. It attempts to capture physical activity by acknowledging the variety of meanings that we attribute to it. I humbly accept that what follows is only a partial definition, and encourage the reader to link these possible aspects of physical activity with their own experiences.

Physical activity might be :

Political
Spiritual
Hysterical
Historic

Exhaustive
Excruciating
Uninteresting
Protesting

Sensual
Sexual
Risqué
Risky

Arresting
Disarming
Investing
Resisting

Painful
Painless
Subtle
Grand

Curtailing
Surveilling
Obsessive
Compulsive

Dialogical
Diabolical
Expensive
Discursive

Ambient
Ambulant
Connecting
Correcting

Wondrous
Wonderful
Unbearable
Uncomfortable

Cathartic
Chaotic
Instructive
Destructive

Balletic
Bathetic
Compulsory
Derisory

Beneficial
Sacrificial
Moving
Reinforcing

Instinctive
Artistic
Repulsive
Oppressive.
J Piggin, 2018

For more on this issue, please see:

Piggin, J. & Hart, L. (2017). Physical activity advocacy in the UK: A multiple streams analysis of a hybrid policy issue, Leisure Studies. 36, 5. 708-720.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02614367.2017.1285957

Piggin, J & Bairner, A (2016) The global physical inactivity pandemic: An analysis of knowledge production. Sport, Education and Society. 21, 2. 131-147.

 

The Routledge Handbook of Physical Activity Policy and Practice

I am immensely happy to have been a co-editor of the above book. With Dr Louise Mansfield and Prof Mike Weed, we have attempted to bring together the enormous diversity of scholarly thinking about PA policy and practice.

Rather than solely focusing on physical activity as a means for making populations “healthier” (as judged by traditional health markers), we have included a wide range of chapters to encourage academics, policy makers, practitioners and students to question some of the assumptions about physical activity that have become established in recent years. 75 contributing authors provide contemporary and evocative chapters which frame physical activity in:

  • different ways for …
  • different groups who have …
  • different motivations for achieving …
  • different outcomes.

Therefore, interventions that policy makers deploy must be informed not only by good evidence but also by a sympathy for people whose lives are complex and often constrained by unbudgable (and un-nudgable) forces. Being physically active might not only be a healthy choice … it might also be deeply political.

More detail on the book, including the full table of contents can be found here.

Joe Piggin

Handbook

An urgent call for clarity regarding England Rugby’s injury claims – update

A couple of weeks ago, Prof Alan Bairner and I wrote an analysis of England Rugby’s false and misleading injury rate claims. Here is the link:

http://idrottsforum.org/feature-piggin-bairner170523/

I can now report that England Rugby responded. Here is the initial response – with names redacted:

Dear Joe, 

Thank you very much for your email and for bringing this to attention.

The RFU takes player safety extremely seriously. I would like to take the opportunity to respond to your email and to you and Professor Bairner on your editorial (An urgent call for clarity regarding England Rugby’s injury claims). 

We acknowledge that an editing error was made in the wording used as part of our Rugby Safe booklet, which was published two years ago. It should have read: There is no evidence to show that rugby poses a specifically greater risk of catastrophic injury than other sports and other activities to align with the graphic used directly after it on page eight (screengrab attached). This was a mistake as part of the publishing process.

We want to ensure all our resources include accurate information, so will be undertaking the following:

  • Amending the 2015 Rugby Safe booklet to remove the inaccurate wording with immediate effect (the 2015 document has already been removed from our website)
  • Publishing an updated Rugby Safe booklet next season using the latest research and findings

The RFU has apologised to Colin Fuller for the error. It was not our intention to mislead. We will continue our ongoing commitment and work to ensure player welfare is central to all that we do.
Yours sincerely,

###### #####

RFU 

##### ####

For more see:

Piggin, J. & Bairner, A. (2017) An urgent call for clarity regarding England Rugby’s injury claims. Nordic Sport Science Forum http://idrottsforum.org/feature-piggin-bairner170523/

Just a pose juxtaposed

Rome blog photo

Corporate brands spend millions of dollars to offer us visions of fitness, physical activity and success (#wantitmore). At the same time, there are young people literally rolling around on the public footpath with their mates.

This is not a post critiquing either pose. Someone might be as offended by the sexualisation of the female model as by the footpath being usurped for motives other than pedestrianism. However, it did make me wonder about what we should spend our time wondering about. Static, decapitated displays shouting from commercial billboards? Or the anarchic, concrete activities of those who find and use space when and where they can?

#wantwhatmore?

Joe Piggin

And one more on Big Sugar’s impact on science …

I was at a conference in Brasil recently, where one study examined the use of carbohydrate during endurance exercise. Here were the findings which were presented to around 300 undergraduate and postgraduate sport students:
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And there was more:
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So the take home message was “consume a lot of carbohydrate”.

Then the speaker had to acknowledge the funders of the study. Here is the slide showing them:

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The two top organisations were not described as problematic in any way. Instead they were positively acknowledged for their financial contributions. If you look around their websites you will clearly see a “pro-sugar” attitude of these organisations.
https://www.suikerinfo.nl/ and http://www.sugarnutrition.org.uk/index.html (At the end of 2016, the “British Nutrition Foundation” ceased operating.)

On the day of the conference I took a screenshot of the info on their website. You can see just how much they advocate the use of sugar and refute sugar consumption as a cause of obesity. And even more incredibly, the source for their claim about sugar not causing obesity … is themselves! What a scam this is!

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You can also see that many of the companies providing money to the British Nutrition Foundation have a strong profit motive for increasing consumption of their high sugar products.
I wonder if the closure of the British Nutrition Foundation is connected with consumers moving away from high sugar products?
Joe Piggin

UK Sport’s explanation of medal success (and “super-elite athletes”)

Organised sport in the UK has been heavily criticized in recent months, and with good reason. The issues gaining most media attention include:

  • Shocking historical and recent sexual abuse in football
  • Accusations of bullying in British cycling and British swimming
  • Distrubing player management policies in elite rugby
  • Two children being killed after participating in boxing and kickboxing matches

I am sure most sport in the UK is organised well and respectful of participants. These events did remind me though of UK Sport’s explanation of how they try to win medals. At a talk last year a representative from UK Sport (the govt funder of high performance sport) put up these slides to show how they perceive medal attainment. It is somewhat discomforting to know that they have done research in “super-elite athletes” and discovered they had often “experienced childhood trauma”.

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If that is the recipe for winning gold medals, I think the fewer super-elite athletes there are, the better!

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Of course, one might argue that this is an opportunity to turn negative experiences into positive ones, but it is still very problematic. As is encouraging people to focus on the “mundane”. No wonder many athletes retire from their sport with few transferable skills, other than “dedication”.

We need to develop a kinder approach to athlete management, by moving away from “No compromise” policies, and towards an approach that values both short term and long term well-being of participants.

Joe Piggin

New Zealand Cricket – promoting sport and junk food to children

In 2004, the World Health Organisation noted that “Most national regulations recognize children as a special group in need of special consideration and stipulate that advertising should not be harmful or exploitative of their credulity.”

It was unfortunate then, to watch the half time break in an international match between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland where more than 100 children were adorned in McDonald’s branded t shirts and played on the field.

Eden Park McD

The 3o minutes of play was framed by the stadium commentator as a wonderful opportunity for the children, and McDonald’s were promoted as contributing positively to the development of the sport for young people. Some parents were clearly happy with their children on show at Eden Park, taking photos of their children from their seats. I however, remain deeply concerned about the financial connection between a company that promotes ultra-processed food and physical activity for children.

 

Milo drink, rugby and activity monitors

Hello from New Zealand,

With Autumn approaching in the global South, winter sport clubs are beginning to promote preseason training for adults and juniors alike. I saw an ad in the New Zealand Herald encouraging young people to sign up to Auckland Junior Rugby. If they do sign up, they can (possibly) win an “activity tracker”. The marketing of Milo is subtle in the ad. The ball is adorned with a Milo logo, and the prize is the “Milo Champions Activity Tracker”.

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We know that too much added sugar is a problem for children, and their teeth. And we know that marketers can mislead consumers about the health status of highly-processed foods.

I am concerned (but not surprised) that the marketers of such products continue to heavily promote such products to young people. The reason this practice continues is well explained by Yoni Freedhoff: “If your company’s product is a vice, marketing it by way of wholly unrelated, but exciting, fun, or emotional sponsorships/ties is essential.” Similarly, Candice Choi noted that a corporate “investor day” promoted ideas about connecting with customers at an emotional level.” Here is what this means for companies selling high-sugar products:
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Of course, sports is one such place for excitement and emotion. Here’s an example of the sort of promotion Milo has used in recent years to promote their product in schools.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA7xi5HwhIM

And sadly, this is rampant in New Zealand Football as well. McDonald’s First Kicks, McDonald’s Fun Football, and McDonald’s Mini Football are the official names of the schemes.

To what extent do sports clubs have a duty of care to their members? How can we decrease the amount of ultra-processed food consumed by young people? We need to resist these sponsorship arrangements.

Joe Piggin

PS: There are also ongoing debates to be had about the safety in high impact collision sports, and the normalisation of tracking devices, but I shall save that for another day.