3 Worst Fouls in World Cup Fast-Food Ad Game
With the World Cup in full swing in Brazil this summer, the world’s eyes are on soccer’s most prestigious competition.
Unfortunately, with 32 nations competing for the title and more than 3.2 billion viewers expected to tune in, some of the World Cup’s official sponsors and several fast-food companies are taking advantage of this global audience to promote harmful products.
McDonald’s—an official World Cup sponsor along with Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and chicken supplier Moy Park—has been making headlines for its World Cup promotions. While McDonald’s may have created a viral commercial showcasing incredible soccer skills and lined the fields with ads during every game, the company’s attempts to align burgers and fries with the healthiest, top athletes in the world are dangerous and misleading. Other global fast-food companies are also capitalizing on the World Cup by using it to promote harmful, high-fat foods.
The Physicians Committee is serving as referee in the fast-food ad game. We’re issuing red cards to the three companies that committed the worst fouls with their dangerous marketing campaigns centered on the World Cup: McDonald’s, Subway, and Krispy Kreme.
To celebrate the World Cup, McDonald’s has launched a line of internationally themed burgers in countries throughout the world. Instead of focusing on healthful, plant-based foods that better represent traditional fare from many of the countries, McDonald’s is offering its customers in Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, and Pakistan a new menu of Brazil beef burgers, Australia chicken burgers, and Spain sausage wraps. McDonald’s Japanese menu showcases Italy by offering Chicken McNuggets with Italian basil and cream cheese. Similarly, Brazil’s menu features the McItalia, which packs a meatloaf patty, pepperoni, cheese, and tomato sauce onto a basil-flavored, soccer ball-shaped bun. Instead of representing Italy with a classic pasta and tomato sauce dish—which would weigh in at 0 milligrams of cholesterol and 0 grams of saturated fat, while delivering nutrients like fiber and vitamins A and C—McDonald’s chose to further push foods that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat onto its global customers. Heavy in meat and cheese, the McItalia features 62 milligrams of cholesterol, 36 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, and 1,410 milligrams of sodium.
Unfortunately, McDonald’s and other fast-food outlets have been contributing to a global shift from healthful, traditional diets to meat-heavy Western diets since long before the introduction of the World Cup menu. McDonald’s now has a presence in 118 countries, with more than 35,000 restaurant locations around the world.
Three decades ago, Pelé dominated Brazil’s soccer fields. Widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, Pelé led Brazil to three World Cup titles and still holds the world record for most league career goals. Now that the World Cup is back in Brazil, Pelé is once again making headlines—but this time for promoting fast food. As part of Subway’s team of professional athletes, Pelé has been heavily featured in international campaigns in June to promote the sandwich chain as the place “where winners eat.”
The image of one of the world’s top athletes promoting fast food is an apt metaphor for the shift in global health in the years since Pelé dominated soccer. Since his retirement, obesity rates have risen to epidemic levels around the world. A recent study found that over the past 33 years, not a single nation has lowered its obesity rate. Nearly 30 percent of the world’s population is now overweight, and obesity is surging in both developed and developing nations.
Approximately 12.9 percent of boys and 13.4 percent of girls in developing countries are now overweight. At the same time, Western countries are exporting their poor health habits and fast-food restaurants—with menus heavy in meat, dairy, and processed food—to countries around the world. Subway now has more than 1,000 locations in Brazil alone.
Most of Subway’s menu, including the best-selling Italian BMT sandwich, is full of processed meat, which has been linked to colorectal cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Brazil’s Ministry of Health recently released data showing that 51 percent of Brazilian men and one out of every three Brazilian children are now overweight. Brazil is facing a serious problem with obesity and other diet-related diseases, and by drawing attention away from athletes on the field and placing it on athletes promoting high-fat fast food, Subway is only adding to the problem.
3. Krispy Kreme
In celebration of the World Cup, Krispy Kreme has released soccer-themed donuts in select regions and countries. The United Kingdom’s version of the donut is filled with cream, dipped in chocolate, and then topped with sprinkles in the shape of a soccer ball. Each soccer-themed donut weighs in at 326 calories and 7.8 grams of fat. Like McDonald’s and Subway, Krispy Kreme is capitalizing on an event that should promote health and instead using it to sell harmful, high-fat foods to its UK customers.
The company is contributing to a serious and escalating problem.
A recent study found that one-third of British children eat junk food on a daily basis, while another study found that English and Irish kids are inundated with fast-food and junk-food ads approximately every 4.2 minutes during children’s TV programs. The prevalence of fast food and junk food in the UK has led to soaring rates of diabetes that have been detailed in a new study. For the first time, more than one in three adults has borderline diabetes, a rate that has tripled over the past eight years. The number of obese adults in the UK over the past two decades has doubled.
How Fans Can Keep Their Defense Strong
Fast-food companies and World Cup sponsors have been undermining the competition’s positive, healthy values by promoting harmful products that contribute to a decline in global health. Fortunately, World Cup fans can keep up their defense against chronic diseases by focusing on the players on the field, rather than ads on the sidelines or commercials during TV broadcasts.
For example, the Italian team has maintained a healthful diet by traveling to Brazil with pasta, while the United States has attributed its success to a meal plan that includes oatmeal, post-game smoothies, and plenty of colorful fresh produce.
As massive fast-food companies try to cash in on the World Cup and its fans’ wallets, fans should stick to what they know about nutrition. Cheeseburgers—even when their buns are fashioned into soccer balls—will never help you achieve top athlete status.