Cleaning Up Junk Food In Sport - It's Just Not Cricket

10 Jan 2019

Public health groups are calling on elite sporting clubs to clean their act up as new research shows mums and dads are sick of major sports codes partnering with junk food companies that put profits before health.

KFC is currently heavily promoting across multiple channels via sponsorship of The Big Bash, Australia’s Twenty20 cricket league. Its ‘The One Box’ costs just $12.95 and contains 50% of the maximum daily recommended saturated fat intake (11.8g) 1, 160% of the maximum daily recommended salt intake (3197mg) 2 and almost two-thirds of an adult’s energy needs for the day (5795kJ).

The junk food industry spent around $45million in Victoria alone last year on mass media advertising. With these aggressive marketing strategies, combined with next to no regulation on how the fast food industry is allowed to market itself, our kids don’t stand a chance at maintaining healthy diets. 3

Research 4 from LiveLighter shows the majority of people have had enough of the aggressive promotion of junk food in sport. An in-depth study of more than 2,000 participants has revealed:

  • 68% percent of parents say elite sporting groups should focus on healthy sponsorships.
  • 70% of people agree companies advertising junk food in sports settings care more about making money than the public’s health.
  • More than half believe current restrictions on advertising don’t go far enough to protect children being exposed to junk food marketing.

LiveLighter Campaign Manager and Dietitian Alice Bastable said that the association with junk food and sport impacts children’s diets, making them more susceptible to ongoing health problems as adults.

“Overweight and obese children have a much greater chance of becoming obese adults and face increased risks of developing chronic conditions later in life such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and 13 types of cancer.”

Poor diet is also a significant problem for children, with around 40% of the energy in children’s diets coming from unhealthy foods 5 and only one in 17 children eating the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables 6 .

“Early life experience has been shown to influence the weight gain of children through to adult life. Once these patterns are set they are very difficult to change, which is why we need to protect children from the promotion of junk food, which is all around them,” Ms Bastable said.

The Obesity Policy Coalition’s Executive Manager Jane Martin said that when over 26% of Australian children are overweight or obese, and nearly 31% in Victoria 7, it’s time sporting bodies call time and source healthier sponsors.

“The Big Bash is saturating an event, it promotes as family friendly, with junk food undermining parents’ efforts to create healthy habits for their kids. Whether it’s KFC banners around the pitch or the cheap meal deal promotions during the ad breaks, it’s impossible to avoid,” Ms Martin said.

“We know that marketing influences what children want to eat, creating pester power and contributing to weight gain. Junk food brands are taking full advantage and bombarding kids with junk food marketing during their favourite sporting matches.”

“Children are particularly susceptible to hero-worship. Junk food advertising during sporting matches builds positive associations between their sporting heroes and unhealthy food and drink brands.”

Ms Martin called on the Big Bash, and other major sporting leagues, to live up to their family friendly brand and phase out sponsorship arrangements with junk food for the sake of our kids’ health.

“We need to stop and think if aligning sport and junk food is helping our kids or undermining healthy choices,” Ms Martin said.

Notes on data:

  3. Based on non-digital Quick Service Restaurant media spend for Dec 17 – Nov 18 inclusive
  4. From LiveLighter’s most recent ‘Shape of Australia’ report prepared for Cancer Council WA and Cancer Council Victoria by Nina Sapountsis, Liyuwork Dana, and Simone Pettigrew at WA Cancer Prevention Research Unit (WACPRU) – full report not yet published. A sample of 2000 respondents was used with about two thirds of the sample being aged 18-54 years of age.
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Nutrition across the life stages, 2018.
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18.
  7. From Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s ‘Children’s Health Indicators’

About LiveLighter

LiveLighter is a public health education campaign encouraging Australians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink and being more active.

In Victoria, the campaign is delivered by Cancer Council Victoria. In Western Australia, the LiveLighter campaign is delivered by Cancer Council WA and is funded by the State Government of Western Australia. For more information visit

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The OPC is a partnership between Cancer Council Victoria, Diabetes Victoria, VicHealth and the Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University, a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention. The OPC advocates for evidence-based policy and regulatory change to address overweight, obesity and unhealthy diets in Australia.