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The 2016 Rio Olympics Under Fire For Marketing Junk Food to Young Viewers

Jaclyn Hughes

Every year, somewhere between January and February, millions of television viewers all over the globe tune into the NFL Superbowl just to watch the commercials. The ads placed during huge sporting events like this can run well into the millions, and often they take months to produce, which is why the Rio Olympics is taking center stage this week with tons of brand new, exciting commercials to feast your eyes on.

While most of the ads shown during the athletic events are inspirational, or educational in a sporting sense, some of this year’s commercials are taking a lot of heat for taking such a public stage to get their message across. McDonald’s for instance it one of the companies that is sponsoring the Rio events, and millions believe the fast food chain having the opportunity to showcase unhealthy food choices is unethical during an athletic show such as the Olympics.

Other companies such as Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, and M&M’s are all being shunned by public health experts for their marketing strategies by deeming some of their products as “healthy”.  The issue is striking a nerve with many associations such as the World Obesity Federation where officials for the organization have voiced their opinion on the matter expressing their displeasure with these food companies being permitted to sponsor a showcase such as the Olympics.

The Guardian reported that Tim Lobstein is the policy director with the WOF, has gone on the record saying “the Olympic Games should be a beacon of human progress and ability, not a place where poor nutrition is given a halo of gold.” 

Children are definitely watching carefully every event with such admiration of the Olympians that it certainly poses a threat if they are receiving a message that eating junk food will remotely equate evolving into a world class athlete, but interpretation is to each their own in that regard. Unless something massive changes in the television marketing world in the next few years, you can expect to see loads of junk food commercials to come. The fact of the matter is, these companies make a fortune selling not-so-healthy products to consumers, and they are some of the only businesses that are wealthy enough to afford such marketing options to be featured in the Olympics ads. Of course, not every item on the menu at places like McDonald’s are unhealthy, so perhaps parents need to set the standard for good food choices at home and not encourage their kids to get their food groupings from television or social media.

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