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Centre for Behavioural
Research in Cancer

Harnessing the power of elite sport sponsorship to promote healthy eating by young adults


Research has implicated commercial marketing of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages (unhealthy food) in contributing to population levels of overweight and obesity and poor diet. Unhealthy foods are promoted heavily to young adults through food company sponsorship of elite sport. Investment in such sponsorship is widespread, resulting in extensive exposure among young adults who are avid spectators of elite sport. An opportunity exists to engage young adults in public health interventions to promote healthy eating and body weight through elite sport sponsorship. This project consists of two studies that represent the most systematic investigation to date of potential solutions to the unhealthy food sponsorship environment that pervades elite sport in Australia.

Study 1 is a controlled experiment exploring the relative effects of sponsorship of an elite sporting event by: a) unhealthy food brands; b) healthy food brands; c) non-food brands; or d) an obesity prevention public health campaign, on young adults’ brand awareness, attitudes and image perceptions, and preferences for sponsor products. Study 2 is a naturalistic trial testing whether exposure to: a) counter-advertising contesting unhealthy food sport sponsorship; or b) obesity prevention public health advertising, before viewing an elite sporting event diminishes persuasive effects of unhealthy food sponsorship of that event. This timely project will yield practical evidence on the efficacy of using alternative, pro-health sport sponsorship and advertising models in promoting healthier diets to young adults. The study findings will lay the foundation for developing public health-oriented sport sponsorship policies targeted toward healthy eating and obesity prevention.

CBRC staff

Dr Helen Dixon, Maree Scully, Prof Melanie Wakefield


Dr Bridget Kelly (University of Wollongong), Prof Simone Pettigrew (Curtin University), Dr Kathy Chapman (formerly Cancer Council New South Wales), A/Prof Jeff Niederdeppe (Cornell University, USA)


NHMRC Project Grant (1114923)


2016 - present