In Australia, sport is saturated by the promotion of junk food, alcohol and gambling products. This is particularly evident on player jerseys. The effect of this advertising on children, who are exposed to these messages while watching sport, has not been thoroughly investigated. The aim of this research study was to investigate:
(1) the extent to which children implicitly recalled shirt sponsors with the correct sporting team;
(2) whether children associated some types of sponsors with certain sporting codes more than others; and
(3) whether age of the children influenced the correct recall of sponsoring brands and teams.
This experimental study conducted in New South Wales, Australia used projective techniques to measure the implicit recall of team sponsorship relationships of 85 children aged 5–12 years. Participants were asked to arrange two sets of magnets – one which contained sporting teams and one which contained brand logos – in the manner deemed most appropriate by them. Children were not given any prompts relating to sporting sponsorship relationships.
Three quarters (77 %) of the children were able to identify at least one correct shirt sponsor. Children
associated alcohol and gambling brands more highly with the more popular sporting code, the National Rugby
League compared to the Australian Football League sporting code. Results showed that age had an effect on
number of shirt sponsors correctly recalled with 9–12 year olds being significantly more likely than 5–8 year olds to correctly identify team sponsors.
Given children’s ability to implicitly recall shirt sponsors in a sporting context, Australian sporting
codes should examine their current sponsorship relationships to reduce the number of unhealthy commodity shirt sponsors. While there is some regulation that protects children from the marketing of unhealthy commodity products, these findings suggest that children are still exposed to and recall these sponsorship relationships. Results suggest that the promotion of unhealthy commodity products during sporting matches is contributing to increased awareness amongst children of unhealthy commodity brands. Further investigation is required to examine the extent and impact of marketing initiatives during televised sporting matches on children.