Athletes Support Obesity

For those who tuned in to the one-sided beat down that was Super Bowl XLVIII, it is tough to look past Peyton Manning’s subpar performance throughout the entire game. For someone who had a record-breaking regular season, coming into the game with the #1 ranked offense in the league, he really failed to deliver.  At least his buddies at Papa Johns can still deliver, and hopefully in 15 minutes or less! Peyton Manning has proven himself to be a heavy endorser of Papa John’s, especially after purchasing 21 franchises in Colorado. Riddle me this, how is it that professional athletes are the best endorsers for unhealthy food choices, yet their physiques and life styles are not aligned with their sponsors? Maybe Peyton made the mistake of actually eating some of the delicious pizza before the big game. Let’s face it; a big greasy pizza is not an ideal pregame meal for any sort of competition. Not to mention how slippery it will leave your fingers (which may result in a few interceptions).

Sponsorships are used in advertising to endorse products through the featured prolific person, whom would assume to be relatable to the product or service. Some people choose their products carefully, whereas others appear to care only about the personal gains. Many sponsorships prove to be for monetary gain when using unrelated people for products. For example, irony is apparent when an athlete endorses an unhealthy food service, such as Anderson Silva, a UFC middleweight champion. Although Anderson also sponsors athletic corporation NIKE, the UFC fighter is a well-known advocate for fast food chain Burger King.

Just a little over a month ago, on one of the most eagerly awaited UFC rematches of all time, Anderson Silva entered the octagon with his Burger King logo stamped right on his thigh.  For those of you unfamiliar with Silva, he is widely regarded as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. However, midway through the second round Silva finished himself by snapping his own shinbone over the side of Chris Weidman’s knee. The type of healthy life style decisions Silva makes in order to be best of the best does not accurately reflect his endorsement for Burger King.


Here the athlete presents himself with a fighting glove in one hand, and a triple burger with bacon in the other. Aside from the fact that the burger is full of some sort of protein, which athletes consume to gain muscle, the advertisement demonstrates a winning athlete endorsing an obvious unhealthy meal. This endorsement, like a few others is an ironic match with an arguably more ironic ending. Furthermore, a burger like such may be easily burned off by the strenuous activity and amount of energy exuded by a professional athlete. The everyday average Joe on the other hand, may only burn off the fries that came in the combo with the enormously sized burger. Professional athletes are then supporting and encouraging the very things that cause obesity within America, just not for their own bodies.

The frequently shown fast food endorsements among some of the most popularly watched professional sports could be an indirect factor and influence of obesity within America right now. If Athletes supported the healthy alternatives instead, perhaps there would be a lesser percentile of overweight and obese diagnoses within the United States. Is fast-food sponsorship among professional athletes problematic, or would sales remain the same among the fast food industry because of the convenience?

-Austin Johnson, Jade Lester, Jami Rogers, Ty Thomas

22 thoughts on “Athletes Support Obesity

  1. I have always noticed that popular food brands of America (and almost always unhealthy ones) are commonly endorsed by famous celebrities or athletes. While I think these kinds of endorsements improve the awareness of the brand, it makes me question what these endorsers really stand for. These people dedicate their life to being fit and having a good image, only to advertise for something that contains thousands of unhealthy calories? It’s crazy when you really think about it. It is well known that Americans across the country view athletes and celebrities as role models, which could only result in unhealthy eating habits for the masses if they believe those are the choices they should be making. It seems like brands deceive their audiences by having such popular people endorse them. I agree with what you all said regarding the fact that America’s health would probably improve as a whole if our role models were endorsing healthy choices; at this point however, I’m afraid our country may be in too deep with unhealthy endorsements from so many athletes and celebrities.

  2. After reading this blog post I realized that while I have always seen the celebrity endorsements for unhealthy foods it never actually occurred to me that they probably never eat those things. I mean I know that they have personal trainers and photoshop, but the reality is that celebrities probably never eat the unhealthy foods they endorse. I also realized that only in the last few years have advertisements for healthy foods started to multiply and often are not associated with celebrities but rather with healthy looking, active, everyday kind of people. You would think that a consumer would relate more to the average person eating healthily than to the celebrity eating unhealthily, but unfortunately the obesity rate is growing and healthy, fast food is getting cheaper and healthy food is getting more expensive. In “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” Morgan Spurlock questioned whether or not he was “selling out” in making his documentary, in this case when it comes to celebrities endorsing unhealthy foods I think they really are just selling out and doing whatever they can for press and more money.

  3. I never really noticed how many athletes do endorse unhealthy food options until reading this blog entry. I find it very interesting and honestly contradicting to what the athletes believe in. A professional athlete’s diet would most likely be packed with fruits, vegetables, grains, and lots of exercise to remain fit. The fact that Anderson Silva is hold a triple hamburger in one hand and wearing a fighting glove on the other is very alarming, and truthfully just looking at the hamburger alone I feel that I can have a heart attack. Although I do agree with you that athlete’s may be able to burn the calories off from their rigorous workouts but there are far worse things in fast food than calories, such as fat, cholesterol, and other chemicals that go into making. I believe that in order for athlete’s to stay true to themselves they should be endorsing a healthy diet or different exercise programs to prevent obesity not encourage it. What kind of message does that send to people? If you can eat a triple hamburger than you can fight as well as me( Anderson Silva). As a country that understands obesity is a serious problem and we need to fight it, you would think there would be healthier options that people would endorse. To encourage an active and balanced healthy lifestyle, not a self-destructing lifestyle. I’m curious to see in the upcoming years if celebrity endorsement for fast food decreases or just continues to increase.

    -Alexa Tahan

  4. I remember when it seemed all of the sports figures were featured on the front of the WHEATIES box. Shaq, Jordan, Mia Hamm, Muhammed Ali, I could go on and on. Heck, even Peyton Manning graced the box in 2004. Maybe his eating habits could be to blame for sunday’s beatdown. Regardless, I think consumers would still be drawn to the fast-food options just out of convenience, but having the face of a prominent athlete backing it helps no one but the company. A combo from any given fast food chain account for more than half of the calories one should consume on a daily basis, with less substantial nutrients, making you hungrier and resulting in a physique far from that of the spokesperson. It’d be refreshing to see more athletes endorsing products that they actual consume or something with healthful results when transitioning into the marketing world.

  5. It is funny to me how fast food companies go after the “stars” of society. I mean if you think about it, it is actually probably really great business. You have younger kids sitting with their families watching the Super Bowl, and all of a sudden, a Burger King commercial comes on with an athlete supporting the food from there. As a young kid, that athlete that they idolize is holding a Burger King burger, and they immediately want to eat that burger because they want to be that athlete. I feel as though endorsing athletes in fast food advertisements gains business for the fast food industry because kids idolize athletes. However, in the case of society, it is completely unhealthy for the child consuming the fast food. It would be more appropriate for a healthy food industry to promote athletes in their ads, that way they are promoting health in young children.

  6. Although it has never really come to my attention, unhealthy foods are quite often promoted by athletes and other famous people. The irony of this is enormous because I guarantee none of them are wolfing down a big mac before their big game or prestigious audition. Unfortunately for us common people, we buy into the fact that these famous people “love” these unhealthy foods. Since they’re well known, famous actors and athletes are able to sell anything to the vulnerable consumers that watch these commercials. If Peyton Manning eats Papa John’s pizza then why wouldn’t everyone else in America want to eat it too?

  7. This article definitely opened my eyes and made me more aware of the backside of advertisements. It really does not make any sense for a professional athlete to promote unhealthy foods when clearly, that is not how they live their lives. When you think about it, it is reflects negatively on the athlete mostly because they are basically lying to audiences, and on top of that, it’s just for a few extra bucks. The only acceptable fast food advertisement with celebrity promotion that comes to mind is Subway, and that is because they pride themselves on their healthy options. Although not all viewers will be swayed by seeing their favorite football player promoting Papa John’s, it still ultimately sends the wrong message.

  8. This phenomenon of professional athletes sponsoring fast food chains has always puzzled me. Especially with the Olympics starting up in the next couple of days, McDonald’s is always one of Team USA’s biggest sponsors. What kind of message is this sending to the kids of America, and even the world, today? The more fast food you eat the more like Shaun White, Micheal Phelps or Anderson Silva you will look and perform? Sadly, it get’s the job done. You asked the question of if the fast food chains would be able to receive the business and make the amount of money that they do today, and my answer to that is no. Since television marketing began years ago, companies have paid high dollar to get the freshest faces and the ones that America will identify with the most. Sports is the one thing that can unify a group of diverse people together for one common goal. Thus, it is important for companies to use these athletes as the spokespeople for their products. Is it sending the wrong message to children and even adults of America? Absolutely; however, does it get the job done? A resounding yes.

  9. The fact that well known athletes around the world are supporting brands that are very unhealthy for people’s health brings up many concerns for me. For example, in the above picture, the ad shows a an in-shape man sponsoring a very unhealthy food choice. However, this gives the idea to people that they can eat whatever they want, and if they work out, they will still be in the best of shape. This isn’t true, and this is what makes me question what the company will do in order to get their brand name out their. Do they pay the athlete double what they would pay in order to get their brand name attached to the athlete’s face? They aren’t advertising the truth. This only brings up more concerns about what other companies are doing around the world to get their name out there.

    • I do find it odd that professional athletes, the people who dedicate their lives to training and eating right, are the ones to endorse the companies who sell the most unhealthy food. It does seem a bit hypocritical, because we know that they are most likely not eating these foods themselves, but I think America’s problem is much bigger than athletes and celebrities endorsing unhealthy food. If you want to eat a certain food just because an athlete does, you have problems of your own. Although I don’t agree with these athletes endorsing the fast food, I think that most of them are just doing it for the money and not really thinking about their impact on the people watching.

  10. Professional athletes as endorsers for unhealthy food sponsors is a complete contradiction. Not only is representing non-nutritious food companies embarrassing for the athlete and their team but it is ruining their image as an inspiration. It seems as though it has become more about making money then setting an example of a positive, healthy lifestyle for the consumer of the sports brand. It’s a shame that NFL player, Peyton Manning, a well-known face in America’s most popular sport, is making millions supporting a greasy, fast-food (might I add fake) pizza company. Like the blog said, a professional athlete performing intense training on a regular basis obviously has an easier time burning off Burger King’s triple cheeseburgers than his “average Joe” fan. Perhaps it’s time healthy choices be encouraged by our successful familiar faces, so unhealthy messages stop sending us to the wrong restaurant.

  11. It’s not a false statement to say that an athlete can eat greasy cheeseburgers and fries and still maintain a very good physical shape along with staying internally healthy. However, even though all of the working out and conditioning (or simply just being an active athlete alone) can keep the pounds from sticking on, does not mean it will have that little of effect on the rest of America. Most American’s are not active enough, therefore when they consume meals such as these that are being shown on the commercials, it is somewhat a bad example.

    That does not mean that they should not be shown. Americans have free will, as do advertisers. Different brands should be able to promote whatever food they like, as long as there is no false advertisement.

    In my personal opinion, I think these fast food and unhealthy food commercials, and health directed commercials should be equally distributed through television.

    After this being said, I do not think having these commercials during the Super Bowl with famous athletes is ‘problematic’. I just think there should also be an equal distribution of health related food commercials.

    ~Brooke Boatwright

  12. I think that it is bad for athletes to promote fast food restaurants. Even though some fast food restaurants serve somewhat healthy foods, they are far and few in between. When some normal people see an ad with a healthy professional athlete endorsing a Triple Decker Burger, some think that they can eat it everyday without consequences. Even though the athlete is not telling the public to eat it everyday, some will because some people have the tendency to believe everything their hero tells them. This type of advertising probably has led to more obesity. Maybe if the fast food restaurants and athletes advertised and heavily promoted a healthy alternative instead of the greasy foods, the people would choose healthy over unhealthy. Then, combining athletes and fast food advertisements would maybe okay.


  13. Before reading this blog, I never really realized how many athletes actually support unhealthy food companies. I think it is probably really common for celebrities to endorse products that they don’t actually use, but just for monetary gain. For example I doubt that all the actresses and singers actually wear the make-up brands that they are the face of. Normally I don’t think it matters if the celebrity doesn’t actually use the product, but in this case it can have a huge impact. Athletes should not support unhealthy fast food chains because the kids that admire them will want the food even more. It is giving kids the wrong idea about what they should be eating to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which is frustrating because athletes live incredibly healthy lifestyles. Therefore, healthy foods are the foods that athletes should be endorsing.

  14. I’m going to go against the grain here and say that I don’t believe Celebrity endorsement of fast food or junk food is necessarily as big a problem as this article makes it seem. I would love to do research on the topic, but drawing from personal experience I just can’t say I’m all that affected by it. Maybe others are; maybe I’m immune to it by some freak DNA malfunction. But I simply can’t think of a time where I’ve wanted a pizza and thought “Oh I could really go for some pizza right now. Hmmm but I shouldn’t because it isn’t all that healthy. Oh what the heck, Peyton Manning eats pizza too!” My normal thought process when I’m hungry is simply “Pizza sounds good. Let’s do Pizza.” Celebrities play no role in my decision making.
    Now say I am some kind of exception to the laws of celebrity endorsement, and it is encouraging obesity among our nation. I would argue that health-promoting companies are just as eligible to hire celebrities to endorse their products. For example, an exercise machine endorsed by Chuck Norris. Who’s to say that if celebrities endorsing junk food are poisoning our minds, that celebrities endorsing salads and pull-up bars can’t counterbalance the effect?
    Another reason I don’t believe that celebrity endorsement of junk food is an enormous problem is because I think that convenience, taste, and price will always hold junk food on our left shoulder, convincing us that it’s a better decision than the sugar-free angel on our right. I usually indulge in a mountain dew for 1 of 2 reasons: I want flavor, or I want a boost. Not flavor, energy, and to briefly become Shaun White.
    The blog states “If Athletes supported the healthy alternatives instead, perhaps there would be a lesser percentile of overweight and obese diagnoses within the United States.” My problem with this statement is that there are celebrities endorsing healthy choices. Their are celebrities promoting junk food as well, but Wheaties boxes are not yet a thing of the past. In addition, the blog asks if sales would remain the same in fast-food industries due to convenience and my answer is yes. So is celebrity endorsement a problem? No. Is it deceiving? Yes. But as citizens of a country that is completely saturated in advertising, shouldn’t we know that by now?

  15. I never really noticed that it was this bad until you mentioned it. There are so many athletes who endorse fast food chains. Kids look up to these professional athletes and contrary to popular belief they are impressionable. The obesity epidemic in the U.S. is awful, we really don’t need the youth of America correlating athletes they look up to with McDonalds or Papa Johns. Professional athletes make so much money from other endorsements and sponsors…do they really need to promote food that they would almost never eat? Most pro athletes probably could eat the fast food they endorse if they really wanted to, but they burn an insane amount of calories, hence “pro” athlete. I just think its a little ironic since the only people who could probably get away with eating fast food are the ones who endorse it and rarely eat it.

  16. I have always noticed that it would be a skinny attractive female eating a triple decker cheese burger in fast food commercials. Which is seriously unrealistic, however I have also noticed another thing. As the olympics approach commercials (Subway for example) use all olympic, medaling, popular athletes as the star of the commercials. Not only this even more unrealistic than the skinny female, its just a flat out lie. For individuals who literally spend every hour or everyday perfecting their bodies to achieve such excellence, there is no way that they even think about touching fast food. But Im not sure exactly who’s to blame. Yes the company is false advertising but its that individual who is giving a false representation of the lifestyle they live. I agree with the this post, stating that these endorsements are contributing to our country’s obesity. And if there were to be a shift of Olympic athletes advertising salad instead of french fries I believe that the audiences would be influenced.

  17. I have never really noticed how prevalent this was until reading the article. Once I started thinking about it though, the first thing that came to mind was the Coca-Cola commercial in the 70s with Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene. I wasn’t even born in the time it was made but I know it. He is limping into the locker room after a game and a boy comes up and offers him a coke. He then proceeds to chug the entire bottle in a matter of seconds, which almost immediately brightens his attitude, and then tosses the boy his jersey.
    However, I do think that some of this is just companies trying to appeal to the athletes’ fans. For instance, most of the Peyton Manning-Papa John’s commercials air during NFL games. And regardless of Peyton Manning in an ad or not, I think that there will be a lot of people ordering pizza while watching football, and so Papa John’s is just trying to get those people to make Papa John’s their pizza of choice. Also, when I think about athletes endorsing a fast food chain, Subway comes to mind the most. Subway almost exclusively has athletes pitching their product in commercials, and at least their food somewhat resembles what healthy eating should be.

  18. Within the world of advertising there tends to be some incongruence between the lifestyle of the spokesperson and the good or service they are advertising. For instance, the Dr. Pepper commercials feature a prima ballerina, boxer/model, and other people who are in fields that tend to have strict dietary regiments which probably exclude soda. Yet we watch these ads and don’t think twice. I think this is the rationale behind the advertising: “They’re in peak physical condition. You’re probably not. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for you. Buy our product.” And we do. When I look at advertising, I try to keep in mind that whoever is endorsing this product is probably getting paid an obscene amount of money to do so and that their life really does not revolve around whatever they’re peddling.

  19. I do not think that all fast food sponsorship is problematic. Take Subway for example, they use a variety of athletes within their commercials and the options within the store are not all healthy. The athletes help draw people in and get people to recognize the brand but once the customer come into any of the fast-food places it is a matter of what they choose. Most menus now offer a healthier option but that doesn’t mean that everyone who sees the athletes with the brand come in and eat healthy too. Some peoples ideas of what is healthy varies and don’t know that all the add on’s or condiments they use are extra added calories that the athletes don’t use. I also think that sales would remain the same simply because of the convenience, cheaper cost, and no clean up factors. Most college and post college students eat out or don’t have the time to cook a healthy meal. With that said, they choose from the variety of fast-food places within their area.

    If eating healthy and cooking for yourself is taught at a younger age, then the obesity wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is now. Brands will always use sports figures or someone in the public eye to associate themselves with but it is the knowledge behind eating well that will help the consumer.

  20. I’ll admit that I never really gave it much thought when I would see a super fit athlete representing a company like Burger King. I now see how unrealistic it is for an athlete to be the spokesperson for a company that does not support their lifestyle. I feel that having celebrities represent companies that promote unhealthy food is false advertisement for the customer. For example, I don’t think that a teenage girl should be influenced that it okay to eat unhealthy because a celebrity endorses the advertisement. In reality these athlete train and diet very hard to have the bodies that they do. I doubt that a “big mac” is their first choice meal during training season. I am not blaming athletes or celebrities for the problem America has with obesity, but I don’t think they are helping by encouraging people to eat unhealthy in commercials.

  21. I understand where this is coming from and the irony of it all. However, celebrity endorsement of products that are unhealthy, ridiculous, or useless is not a new thing. This is very common and not an issue we need to be focusing on. I am a strong believer that we have the responsibility as consumers to manage our perceptions. I know that many American’s are not equipped with the knowledge to understand marketing strategies. However, I feel that laziness and convenience when it comes to the ease of fast food is the perpetrator promoting obesity not the athletes or skinny, beautiful models that are that are endorsing the product. I also feel that these athletes have no ethical obligation to protecting America from obesity through refusing to promote fast food. Perhaps they do enjoy the product on their cheat days. Even if they do not, how many times do you think a celebrity has endorsed a product that they have never used or wouldn’t choose to use? Thousands and thousands of times.

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