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Media and Sport

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What is behind every major brand in the world? An iconic sportsman endorsing it. The celebrity status of sportsmen all over the world has continued to grow, especially in the past decade. Sports stars are often regarded as role models and therefore it has been suggested they should only be able to endorse certain brands and messages. I will be arguing in this essay through the example of NBA star LeBron James how I agree due to sporting stars growing influence on society, especially children and teens, they should not be allowed to endorse negative brands or messages such as unhealthy food.

The influence of sporting stars in today’s society is major. Most athletes idolised by millions around the globe, kids holding onto every word that comes from their mouths. Think of your childhood idol for a second. When you are a child you are so infatuated by your idols you want to be just like them, do what they do, eat what they eat and wear what they wear. With this kind of influence on thousands of people caution needs to be taken when deciding the brands and messages one can endorse. A case study completed by youth in India provides proof of the influence Sporting Stars can have on our youth. About 14.1% of the children tested admitted to purchase products that appear in ads endorsed by their sporting heroes while 51.6% youngsters say that they make the purchase however, not always. 20.4 % say that they never buy products that appear in ads. Another 13% say that they do not want to comment on this topic. In conclusion the truth is stated discussing “The interesting part is that youth are the targeted consumers of celebrity endorsements. Hence Media privilege celebrity endorsement over unendorsed ads in order to make their product much more popular and valuable in the domestic and international market” (Prakash, J &Shamala R, 2014). Another case study was undertaken in 2004 to assess and examine the influence sport celebrities have on Generation Y. The study comments on how the youth market is targeted as the market is one of the most powerful due to their spending power, ability to be trendsetters, receptivity to new products, and potential to become lifelong customers. It also expressed how both sports and sports celebrities have become major spectacles of today’s media culture “Sports celebrities have been looked upon as role models for decades, and with the technological advances in broadcast and interactive media, it appears that famous and infamous athletes are everywhere”. After immense research it concludes that “Teenagers represent an enormous market for advertisers. Athlete role models are perceived as important influencers to teens. These influencers are not only important in helping spread positive word-of-mouth about a product or brand, but also for enhancing brand loyalty. It is extremely important that advertising managers understand the impact of these celebrity athletes and consider utilizing these influencers in their messages.”(Bush, A, Bush, V & Martin, C, 2004,). This statement right here is enough to hold concern towards the freedom of endorsement deals. Both these studies shine light on the major power sporting celebrities hold and how restrictions should be put in place to ensure these brands and messages are not inappropriate or incorrect.

Take NBA’s biggest endorsement star LeBron James as a perfect example. Known as the ‘king of NBA’ James has major endorsement deals earning him a staggering $53 million in the past year alone. (The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes: #3 LeBron James). James’ has made endorsement deals with major international corporations such as Nike and Baskin Robins, however, the internationally recognised sporting champion has multi-million dollar deals with McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Dunkin Doughnuts. A man known for his athletic talent, his fit physique, his power and energy on the field is signing deals with major unhealthy food corporations to promote their products “James added McDonald’s to his endorsement portfolio in January 2010 in a deal worth an estimated $4 million annually” (LeBron James Net Worth). Both extremely confusing and contradictory, a man currently worth around $325 million cannot exactly claim those deals were signed for the money. The worst part is his influence is major, if his 22,000,000 plus followers on Facebook aren’t significant enough (LeBron James), look at the stats on his signature shoes “ his signature Nike shoe has been a hot seller racking up $90 million in sales in the U.S. in 2011 according to SportsOneSource. (LeBron James Net Worth). It’s hard to understand why an individual would choose to support organisations that contradict the athletic abilities he is known for. Another man who failed to understand this was social epidemiologist and physician-in-training, Abdul El-Sayed. In 2012 Abdul wrote ‘An Open Letter to LeBron James’, encouraging him to drop his endorsement deals with Coca-Cola and McDonalds. His facts are more than encouraging with him stating that 1 in every 4 American Kids are overweight, According to many public health experts, childhood obesity is the most serious health issue facing America right now and that advertising unhealthy foods to children is a big part of the problem. He goes onto state “A study in the journal ‘Obesity Reviews’ showed a clear link between watching advertisements for unhealthy foods and the number of snacks children ate on a daily basis.” And “Another study in the ‘European Journal of Public Health’ tells us that eliminating unhealthy food advertising to children could reduce obesity by up to 18 percent” (El-Sayed, A,2012). It’s not just the hypocritical support for unhealthy eating that is the reason they should not be allowed to endorse negative brands or messages such as unhealthy food, it’s the confusion it sends to millions all around the globe. Children look up to sporting greats like LeBron, kids’ witness them achieve athletic greatness then are hearing their idols influencing them to drink coke, eat McDonalds, Dunk a Dunkin Doughnut. In kids minds they believe well if LeBron is doing it why can’t I? His fit, his healthy, his NBA’s King. Sporting greats like James are sending children mixed messages and encouraging them to indulge in unhealthy eating, when countries are spending significant time, money and resources to try and reduce childhood obesity.

In conclusion, sporting identities should not be allowed to endorse negative brands or messages such as unhealthy food. Due to their proven influence on society, especially children, their endorsements should be restricted. It not only sends mixed messages to children around the world its encouraging them to make unhealthy decisions. Every sporting identity has a responsibility. Whether they like it or not, they are role models in society. Children look up to them and want to be just like them. Although, it is not their fault if we are in a stage where governments are tackling childhood obesity, as an athlete they should not be used as a tool and confuse what is and isn’t healthy for kids. They need to understand and take responsibility for the fact they are role models, their actions are idolised, their influence is powerful and therefore should consider the impact their decisions can have on society. Sporting identities need to realise their decisions are not just impacting their own lives but thousands and thousands of others “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin.

REFERENCE LIST

El-Sayed, A,2012, ‘An Open Letter to LeBron James’, viewed online January 15th 2015, http://the2x2project.org/lebron-childhood-obesity/

LeBron James, Facebook, viewed online 15th January 2015, https://www.facebook.com/LeBron

‘The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes: #3 LeBron James’, Forbes, viewed online 15th January 2015, http://www.forbes.com/profile/lebron-james/

Bush, A, Bush, V & Martin, C, 2004, ‘Sports celebrity influence on the behavioral intentions of Generation Y’, Swinburne Online Library, viewed online 14th January 2015, http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/ps/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=RELEVANCE&inPS=true&prodId=AONE&userGroupName=swinburne1&tabID=T002&searchId=R1&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&contentSegment=&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm¤tPosition=1&contentSet=GALE%7CA117854491&&docId=GALE|A117854491&docType=GALE&role=

Prakash, J &Shamala R, 2014, ‘Sports Celebrity Endorsements on TV and its Impact on Youth’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, viewed online 14th January 2015, http://www.ijhssi.org/papers/v3%283%29/Version-3/A03330108.pdf

‘LeBron James Net Worth’, The Richest, viewed online 15th January 2015, http://www.therichest.com/celebnetworth/athletes/nba/lebron-james-net-worth/

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