Background: Participation in community junior sport delivers many health benefits to children; however, exposure to unhealthy food sponsorship in these settings may promote unhealthy food choices to children, and ultimately contribute to poor health outcomes.
Aim: To explore children’s responses to sponsorship of community junior sport by unhealthy food brands, and investigate the utility of alternative, pro-health sponsorship options.
Methods: Experimental design whereby 1,000 students in grades 1 to 3 from Melbourne metropolitan primary schools will be randomly assigned to one of four sponsorship conditions: (i) unhealthy food branding; (ii) healthy food branding; (iii) non-food branding; (iv) obesity prevention campaign branding. All participants will initially be exposed to an image of a merchandise set for their favourite sport branded with the logo corresponding to their assigned condition – thus simulating the process of enrolling in a local sports club and receiving branded merchandise at the start of the season. Following exposure to the intervention, participants will complete a series of questions assessing their brand awareness, brand attitudes, and preference for food sponsor products.
Results: Data collection for this study is underway and will be completed in July. Results will be available for presentation at the conference. For the analysis, logistic regression will be used to examine the effects of sponsorship condition on the proportion of students with top-of-mind awareness and preference for the (a) unhealthy food sponsor product and (b) healthy food sponsor product respectively. Analysis of variance will be used to test for mean differences in ratings of the unhealthy and healthy food sponsor products by condition.
Conclusion: This timely study will yield practical evidence on the utility of alternative, pro-health sport sponsorship options. Such evidence could help inform population-based strategies to modify the community junior sport sponsorship environment so as to foster healthy eating by children.