Junk food advertising to kids

One in four Australian children is overweight or obese. Is the all-pervasive junk food advertising to children part of the problem?
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02.How marketers influence children

Food and drink companies now have many ways to reach children as the line between entertainment and advertising is increasingly blurred.


  • Children are exposed via ads on TV, the internet, social media, viral marketing and celebrity endorsements - particularly sports stars.
  • As well as product tie-ins, placement within TV shows and films, and outdoor advertising in public spaces, advertising and marketing also reaches kids via competitions, supermarket promotions and discounts, and smartphone “advergames” with embedded brand messages and licensed characters.
  • Phone apps are another way of reaching kids. Hungry Jack’s “Shake & Win” app, for example, generates vouchers for free or discounted food when users shake their phone at any Hungry Jack’s store. 

Food and drink companies are interested in selling products but also creating brand loyalty in children that they will carry into adulthood. According to information from a children’s marketing conference: “A lifetime customer may be worth $100,000 to a retailer, making effective ‘cradle to grave’ strategies extremely valuable. For this reason, building brand loyalty is critical and marketing to kids is the best way to do so."

Brand awareness through sport

McDonald’s say they don’t advertise or market to children aged under 14 - yet they create brand awareness by sponsoring children’s sports such as Little Athletics, Hoop Time basketball, and Swimming Queensland. KFC and Milo are sponsors of Cricket Australia; Coca-Cola sponsors Bicycle Network Victoria, which has a program for teens.

"Fast food companies sponsoring sports undermines the healthy eating messages that governments and parents are trying to promote,” says Jane Martin from the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC). “It normalises the relationship between junk food and sport, sending the message that if I play sport, I can eat what I want.”

She argues that junk food promotion should be minimised, while the promotion of nutritious foods needs to be increased to help normalise and reinforce healthy eating in kids.


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