When sports adverts lure fans into disease trap

There is that milky stuff that your tap emits when you turn it on for water. It’s a water purifier called chlorine. Also used to disinfect other water sources such as the swimming pool, chlorine, in its true definition, is a poison. The World Cup is the ultimate way to experience euphoria. But euphoria is something that hardly knows caution. In fact, it bodes on recklessness, including that of consumption, driving, or relationship with others.

There is that milky stuff that your tap emits when you turn it on for water. It’s a water purifier called chlorine. Also used to disinfect other water sources such as the swimming pool, chlorine, in its true definition, is a poison.

The World Cup is the ultimate way to experience euphoria. But euphoria is something that hardly knows caution. In fact, it bodes on recklessness, including that of consumption, driving, or relationship with others.

But it is the consumption bit that producers associated with Federation of International Football Association (Fifa) go for. Their target is everyone interested in the World Cup. And during the one-month tournament, these companies, who are Fifa partners, target the billions of soccer fans across the globe, from those in the stadiums to host countries and the viewers scattered across the globe. 

The 2006 World Cup stands as one of the most watched events in television history, garnering an estimated 26.29 billion non-unique viewers, compiled over the course of the tournament. While the 2010 competition, it was broadcast to more than 200 countries across 254 different channels. 

More than a billion people watched the opening match of the World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil, and hundreds of millions more have been tuning tune in at some point during the month-long tournament that ended last night.

Budweiser, Coca-Cola and McDonald, the three main Fifa sponsors for the Brazil tournament, get their products known with the kind of persuasive adverts that leaves a teenager in courtship looking nothing but academic.

But some health-conscious analysts say Fifa’s six major partners and the event’s eight official sponsors, the audience is nothing short of a gold mine. 

Neil Bedwell, director, global digital Strategy and content for Coca-Cola, in an interview with Forbes magazine said: “One thing I am very interested in is the unveiling of the Coca-Cola Happiness Flag — a football stadium-sized, crowd-sourced mosaic flag created from photos and tweets submitted by fans from around the world.” 

Negative impact

But Kent Buse, the chief of political affairs and strategy at UNAIDS, and Sarah Hawkes, Reader in Global Health and Welcome Trust Senior Fellow in International Public Engagement at the Institute for Global Health, University College London, sponsorship by companies like Budweiser, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and the convenience food giant Moy Park have dire impact on viewers.

In a joint opinion article published in The New Times, the two experts said: “What message does it send to the global audience? Promoting alcohol, sugary drinks, and fast food may mean massive profits for corporations. But it also means worse health for individuals and a costly burden on countries’ health-care systems.”

They argued that instead of focusing exclusively on alcohol’s potential to fuel violence inside stadiums, the media should be emphasising the damage that alcohol and processed foods are causing to the world’s population every day.

The message the two experts are sending is stark, of course, when you consider that consumption of such products continues to rise. And, with this rise in consumption is proportionate or even worse rise in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such high blood pressure and risk of stroke.

Among the NCDs, experts warn, four conditions contribute most to early death or disability: cardiovascular disease, chronic lung conditions, cancer, and diabetes. In 2010, these four conditions caused 47 per cent of all deaths, including nine million deaths in people under 60 years of age.

Cool consumption?

The message from the advertisers is that drinking beer, consuming sodas and eating junks is cool. But we all know that soda is high in sugar content and harmful to health. Fast-foods are junks. Too much oils and fats in them only work negatively on the level of cholesterol in the 

Budweiser, a brewing company, produces brands like Budweiser King of beers, Chelada, Black crown, Select full flavor cream among others. All beer composition are similar and just like Budweiser or Castle lager, you may not be safe if you are induced to gallop reasonable amounts of our local beers. In fact, on average, most beers contain 5 per cent alcohol volume by volume and calories between 145-190 kilo calories.

There is Macdonald’s; their huge buggers and doughnuts are just irresistible. In one way or the other, nothing can stop advertisers from fulfilling their intentions. The useof captivating scenes that promotes consumption of alcoholic drinks, sugary products and junk foods are all too alluring.

A beer sponsor, even at your local pubs where you watch the games from, will strive to show viewers that without a glass brimming with the frosted drink, the game is boring.

Coca-cola will do the same, ‘proving’ beyond reasonable doubt that a bottle of the ice cold sugary drink would give your viewing the perfect tingue,

Fans and ignorance

Ildophonse Nsabimana, a soccer fan, says: “For every goal Neymar scores, I have to order for a bottle of Primus.”

 Neymar was not there in the last two games Brazil played and one would be forgiven for thinking Nsabiman was abstaining from booze. Wrong; he was spotted at the bar besides a table congested with almost all Bralirwa brands at the semifinal games.

“I have a full television unit at home, but I prefer to enjoy the game with a bigger crowd. I don’t drink beer but I like soda and Coca-Cola keeps me awake. I can take as many as three while watching a single game,” Herbert Kwitonda, a Netherlands supporter at the World Cup, said.

On the same table, Geofrey Mpagazehe, a supporter of Nigeria, gave his orders: “Can I have a Kilogram of pork and fried Irish, please?”

Health warning

Dr Isabelle Izimukwiye, the director of Masaka Hospital, says sports events like the World Cup change people’s lifestyles and behaviour, some become reckless with their lives, others choose to drink and feed abnormally.

While one can define beer as a mixture of hops, malted barley, yeast, and water with no other additives added except sugar and alcohol content usually between 4 to 6 per cent although it can be raised, research indicates that, there are some positives in drinking beer only in moderation coming from Vitamin B and antioxidants. It is also said to combat insomnia and several other diseases.

However, chronic excessive drinking of beer is among the lead cause of liver damage. Drinking more than four standard drinks a day (350ml) can trigger inflammation of the liver, experts say. 

“The over-consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and energy-rich processed foods are often framed as lifestyle “choices.” But the determinants of such choices are often removed from people’s immediate control,” Buse and Hawkes wrote. 

Even a small amount of beer will slow down signal processing from the nervous system. 

Short term visual memory, depth perception and learning capabilities are all impaired with a few drinks. A moderate intake of beer was shown to decrease verbal ability in elderly subjects.

“Sugar of present in the soft drinks, chocolates and beers are, of course, come with health consequences, special groups like diabetics, need to watch out before engaging in the fan,” Dr Izimukwiye says.

Mayo Clinic warns that high cholesterol clogs arteries, causing blockages of blood flow. Monitoring diet is the only way to maintain normal cholesterol levels. Regulate your lifestyle behaviour when having fun.  

Possible solutions

According to Buse and Hawkes, as any football pundit will tell you, success depends on teamwork. 

“Consumers must be better informed about the long-term impact of sponsors’ products. After all, the most effective way to compel companies to change is to stop purchasing what they sell,” the duo wrote.

“When people raise their voices – say, to ban advertising for breast-milk substitutes or to demand access to life-saving drugs – big corporations often listen.

“Second, policymakers must be realistic. While there is certainly room for optimism about technological advances that will help to control treatment costs, the fact is that treating a growing share of the world’s population simply is not feasible. 

“Third, businesses have a critical role to play. Beyond being a key aspect of corporate social responsibility, curbing PLCs – and thereby ensuring the health and productivity of current and future generations – is in firms’ interest. Voluntary codes to limit sugar in soft drinks and reduce salt levels in processed foods are a positive step; but they are far from adequate.”