The new study, said by the researchers to be the first to quantify nutritional quality of food and drinks endorsed by music celebrities finds that nearly all the products endorsed are classed as ‘unhealthy’. None of the music stars surveyed endorsed fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. In fact just one endorsed a natural food–pistachios nuts. This conclusion comes from a joint study between NYU Langone Medical Center and the New York University School of Medicine.
Since the birth of rock and roll in the 1950s what popular musicians do and say has had an influence on the fans that follow them. Since the 1980s it has become more common for big selling artists to be sponsored by companies and to endorse products (which the artist may or may not actually use). Given that ‘pop’ music remains primarily marketed at 11 to 25 year olds, many of the products endorsed are food and drink popular with people within this demographic. The extent to which one factor reinforces another is uncertain (do celebrities -and corporations – focus on food and beverages popular with young people; or are young people more attracted to the food and beverages that celebrities endorse?)
However this stands, it remains that soda, fast food and sweets are the most common products endorsed by famous music personalities. This sparked a concern with the lead researcher of the study, Dr. Marie Bragg, who said: “Because of our nation’s childhood and teenage obesity public health crises, it is important to raise awareness about how companies are using celebrities popular with these audiences to market their unhealthy products.”
The companies behind such music orientated promotions spend an estimated $1.8 billion per year. The researchers examined the types of food endorsed using a system called Nutrient Profile Model, and with this 81 percent of products endorsed by artists appearing in Billboard Magazine’s “Hot 100” song charts from 2013 and 2014 were classed as unhealthy. The celebrities with the highest number of food and nonalcoholic beverage endorsements were Baauer (5 products), will.i.am (4), Britney Spears (3), Justin Timberlake (3), Maroon 5 (3), Pitbull (3), and Jessie J (3). Across all musicians, PepsiCo endorsements appeared most frequently (23 in total), followed by the Coca-Cola Company (8) and Dr Pepper Snapple (4). McDonald’s accounted for the most food endorsements in the sample.
Due to these findings, Dr. Bragg is appealing to music celebrities to think of the impact they have on young people and to consider switching endorsements to more healthy products.
The findings are reported to the journal Pediatrics, with the study called “Popular Music Celebrity Endorsements in Food and Nonalcoholic Beverage Marketing.”