Taking a Bite Out of Mixed Food Messaging


Cindy Hutter
Cindy Hutter

When I first saw McDonald’s Olympic themed advertising that shows Olympians biting their metals contrasted with good looking, fit, young adults biting into chicken nuggets with the tagline, “The greatest victories are celebrated with a bite,” the marketing professional in me thought that was very clever. The parent and healthcare professional in me were horrified.

There are millions of kids watching the Olympics and dreaming of being the next Ted Ligety or Meryl Davis. They are fantasizing about walking into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony in a (probably ridiculous looking) red, white and blue outfit. They are picturing themselves standing on the winner’s podium with a shiny metal around their neck and the US national anthem playing in the background. (Even way past my youth in Olympic years, I’m mesmerized by the Olympic spirit and still hold onto the dream of one day being an Olympian regardless of how unrealistic it is.)

But in between watching Gracie Gold on the ice or Bode Miller on the slopes, nearly every commercial break has that McDonald’s bite commercial. How many kids are seeing this commercial and equating McDonald’s chicken nuggets with being an Olympian? McDonalds is an official sponsor after all and there are easily two dozen Olympians featured in the short ad.

Chobani yogurt is also an Olympic sponsor. They’ve been running ads with the tagline, “It’s one thing to sponsor US Olympians. It’s another to be in their fridge.” I wonder how many kids are watching this commercial and see eating Chobani yogurt as a way to be just like hockey player Zach Parise or snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, both featured in the commercials.

It’s impossible to control the spin that is put on food advertising. However, as adults who make food purchasing decisions for the children in our lives, we have near complete control in deciding what our children eat and establishing and modeling healthy eating behaviors. It’s not like children can get in the car and drive to McDonalds or the grocery store to get yogurt themselves—even though some days that would be nice.

So, I have a challenge for you. Take 5 to 10 minutes this week, and ask the kids in your life (your own, nieces, nephews, neighbors) about what they think US Olympians eat. Ask them about the McDonald and Chobani ads. Do they think eating these foods will help them become an Olympian? Make note of how you respond and post your findings in the comments below. Let’s get a conversation going about how to talk to children about healthy eating behaviors.

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3 thoughts on “Taking a Bite Out of Mixed Food Messaging”

  1. Excellent points! We as parents must counter this advertising with common sense but that’s not always so easy. Advertisers have our children’s attention more than us sometimes. But we should persevere nonetheless.

  2. Thanks Devon for your comment. I’m glad the piece resonated with you. Wondering if you had a chance to ask any kids in your life what they think Olympians eat and what they think of the different ads.

  3. Agree that the McDonald’s ad was troubling. I found the Subway ad with the Dorito filled sub even more disturbing…it’s a company that tried to distinguish itself by having fresh, healthy food, while most meals there are similarly high in calories and fat, and most consumers underestimate both. Rudd Center also did nice research examining advertising of unhealthy foods to kids–found in general companies have not decreased it voluntarily although some have done better (Pepsi) and some worse (Coke).

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