Celebrity food endorsements make children eat more

Popeye promoted spinach, Bruce Jenner ate his Wheaties and countless other celebs have donned milk mustaches to support the dairy industry.

But do celebrity food endorsements really work? According to a recent study from the University of Liverpool, yes — and they're especially effective on children.

Children prefer Walkers crisps

The study included 181 children, between 8 and 11 years old, who watched different clips of advertisements and TV programs. Some of the programming included footage of Gary Lineker, a former England international soccer player and current popular TV presenter. Lineker endorses a line of snacks called Walker's Crisps.

The children were offered two bowls of crisps — one labeled "Walker's" and one labeled "Supermarket" — that both contained the Walker's Crisps.

Despite whether or not the children watched footage of Lineker doing a Walker's commercial or seeing him in general TV footage that was unrelated to food, they still ate "considerably more" of the Walker's Crisps than children who had watched other programming that did not include footage of Lineker.

Influence goes beyond food

The study authors note that celebrity endorsement for food products can influence children in a more far-reaching way than previously thought.

"The study demonstrated, for the first time, that the influence of the celebrity extended even further than expected and prompted the children to eat the endorsed product even when they saw the celebrity outside of any actual promotion for the brand," said lead researcher Dr. Emma Boyland from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society.

The more prominent the celebrity, Boyland says, the more dangerous his or her influence can be when endorsing unhealthy foods.

"[The study] quantifies the significant influence that the celebrity has over children's brand preferences and actual consumption," Boyland said.

Source: University of Liverpool

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