Current and former professional athletes frequently endorse particular brands and products, and they are often viewed as credible sources of knowledge on living a healthy life. Previous studies have found that parents are more likely to purchase food products marketed by a professional athlete because they are perceived as being healthier. In a study in the November 2013 Pediatrics, “Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing,” (published online Oct. 7), information was collected from 100 professional athletes ranked by their popularity and endorsement value. Researchers tracked 512 brands associated with the athletes, with sporting goods or apparel ranking highest at 28.3 percent, food and beverages at 23.8 percent, and consumer goods coming in at 10.9 percent. LeBron James, Peyton Manning, and Serena Williams had more food and beverage endorsements than any other athlete, and they were the highest contributors in the marketing of energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods. In 2010, children aged 12 to 17 years of age saw the most athlete-endorsed food and beverage brand commercials, followed by adults. A majority of the food and beverage brand endorsements were for sports beverages, soft drinks and fast food. Ninety-three percent of the 46 beverages being endorsed by athletes received 100 percent of their calories from added sugars. Study authors conclude that promoting unhealthy food and drinks by well-known and physically fit celebrities sends a mixed message to children about diet and health. Professional athletes should be aware of the health value of the products they are endorsing, and should use their status and celebrity to promote healthy messages to youth.
Take a look at the image to the left. It’s the cover of a popular British parenting guide that’s fully funded and distributed by the government. You’ll notice that the five adults on the cover are all women. Ah, excuse me. No dads? Hmmm. That’s annoying, but not terribly uncommon (I teach a class at a major hospital in San Francisco. The folders attendees get are imprinted with the words Women and Children’s Center and include zero images of men).
But what I find especially disturbing is that dads have been left out of the inside of the book as well. The book used to include dads. But they recently got a complaint–a single, solitary one–that the book might offend same-sex couples. So the word “dad” has been completely removed from the book. Gone.
Dear Mr. Dad: In last week’s column you complained that advertising ignores dads. As I understand it, moms make most purchasing decisions. Wouldn’t advertising to men alienate women? And why should advertisers spend money pitching to people who don’t buy anything?
A: You’ve raised three important issues here. Let’s go through them one at a time.
First, while mothers may make the majority of purchasing decisions, it’s not by much. Ninety percent of dad are involved in everyday buying decisions for their family. Forty percent do half or more of the household shopping every week. Single dads and at-home dads account for an even greater share, and those numbers are only going up, as the percentage of women who outearn their husbands also rises.
Four years ago, at the Beijing Olympic Games, Procter & Gamble’s ad campaign was “Proud Spstickonsor of Moms.” I complained loud and long about that one—how leaving dads out in such a glaring way was insulting and demeaning.
Now they’re back, and are ramping up their insulting, demeaning message a few notches. P&G’s campaign for the upcoming London Summer Olympics? “Thank you, Mom.” Excuse me? Only mom? Again? Really? How ’bout “Thank you, Mom and Dad.” Apparently not. As far as P&G is concerned, dads simply don’t exist.
Frankly, I’ve had enough. I’ve spent more than 15 years looking at—and critiquing—advertisers’ portrayals of fathers, and like most dads, I find that the majority of advertising is rather irrelevant to me. But there’s a difference between creating ads that are irrelevant and creating ads that completely deny that fathers exist. (Even Jif peanut butter, famous for their “Choosy Mothers Choose Jif” slogan, occasionally proclaims that “Choosy Mothers and Fathers Choose Jif.”) As a single dad, I do all the shopping for my family and I’ve spent a lot of money on P&G brands over the years. But as far as I’m concerned, P&G no longer exists. I’m taking my wallet elsewhere.