A dietary study of children published in the Journal of Pediatrics outlines how children are especially susceptible to celebrity influence when it comes to the food products they endorse.
Celebrities are frequently used in television and print product advertising. Their use establishes a recognition and credibility to a brand. Celebrities are able to leverage their popularity in order to induce people into buying and using their endorsed products.
University of Liverpool (England) researchers enrolled 181 children, between the ages of 8 and 11, and had them watch three different television advertisements and regular television featuring the international soccer player Gary Lineker. Lineker has since retired from soccer and is known as a TV sportscaster who has been endorsing Walkers Crisps (potato chips) since 1995.
A group of children viewed footage of Match of the Day featuring Lineker as the primary presenter and advertisements for Walkers Crisps, Lineker featured as the endorser.
Short 20-minute cartoon segments and adverts for another snack food and a toy product were embedded for the other group.
After watching the study footage, the children were offered two bowls of crisps, each labeled with “Walker” or “Supermarket.” All bowls contained the exact same Walkers Crisps.
The amount consumed was measured from each bowl selected. The study found kids were more prone to select and eat more of the food endorsed by a celebrity. The children who specifically watched the Lineker film devoured substantially more of the endorsed product food than those who watched cartoons and other ads.
Lead researcher, Dr. Emma Boyland from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, stated concerns over the powerful influence of a celebrity endorsement.
“This research has consequences for the use of celebrities, and in particular sports stars, in advertising unhealthy or High Fat Salt and Sugar (HFSS) products. If celebrity endorsement of HFSS products continues and their appearance in other contexts prompts unhealthy food intake then this would mean that the more prominent the celebrity the more detrimental the effects on children’s diets.”
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