Skip to main content Accessibility help

Game on: do children absorb sports sponsorship messages?

  • Simone Pettigrew (a1), Michael Rosenberg (a1), Renee Ferguson (a1), Stephen Houghton (a2) and Lisa Wood (a3)...

It is likely that there are substantial subconscious effects of organizations’ efforts to associate their products with sport via sponsorships, but most research methods are unable to capture these effects. The present study employed a novel projective technique to explore children's implicit associations between popular sports and a range of sports sponsors.


Children participated in an activity using magnets bearing the logos of numerous sports and sponsors. They were invited to arrange the magnets on a whiteboard without being advised that the activity related to sponsorship.


Perth, Western Australia.


Children (n 164) aged 5–12 years.


Three-quarters (76 %) of the children aligned at least one correct sponsor magnet with the relevant sport. Just over half the children (54 %) correctly matched the most popular sport (an Australian Football League team) with its relevant sponsor (a fast-food chain).


Given the unstructured nature of the projective task, the results provide some support for the argument that sports sponsorship can effectively reach child audiences. This is of concern given the current extent of sponsorship by alcohol and fast-food companies.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Game on: do children absorb sports sponsorship messages?
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Game on: do children absorb sports sponsorship messages?
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Game on: do children absorb sports sponsorship messages?
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email
Hide All
1.Ling, PM, Haber, LA & Wedl, S (2010) Branding the rodeo: a case study of tobacco sports sponsorship. Am J Public Health 100, 3241.
2.Kin, F, Lian, TY & Yoon, YC (2010) How the tobacco industry circumvented ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship: observations from selected ASEAN countries. Asian J WTO Int Health Law Policy 5, 449466.
3.Hastings, G & Sheron, N (2011) Alcohol marketing to children: a new UK private member's bill provides a simple, clear, and effective way forward. BMJ 342, 1767.
4.McDaniel, SR & Mason, DS (1999) An exploratory study of influences on public opinion towards alcohol and tobacco sponsorship of sporting events. J Serv Mark 13, 481499.
5.Munro, G & De Wever, J (2008) Culture clash: alcohol marketing and public health aspirations. Drug Alcohol Rev 27, 204211.
6.Nicholson, M & Hoye, R (2009) Reducing adolescents’ exposure to alcohol advertising and promotion during televised sports. J Am Med Assoc 301, 14791482.
7.Sherriff, J, Griffiths, D & Daube, M (2010) Cricket: notching up runs for food and alcohol companies? Aust N Z J Public Health 34, 1923.
8.Kelly, B, Baur, LA, Bauman, AEet al. (2011) ‘Food company sponsors are kind, generous and cool’: (mis)conceptions of junior sports players. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 8, 95.
9.Kelly, B, Baur, LA, Bauman, AEet al. (2012) Restricting unhealthy food sponsorship: attitudes of the sporting community. Health Policy 104, 288295.
10.Chen, X, Cruz, TB, Schuster, DVet al. (2002) Receptivity to protobacco media and its impact on cigarette smoking among ethnic minority youth in California. J Health Commun 7, 95111.
11.Holman, CDJ, Donovan, RJ, Corti, Bet al. (1997) Banning tobacco sponsorship: replacing tobacco with health messages and creating health-promoting environments. Tob Control 6, 115121.
12.Kaskutas, LA (1993) Changes in public attitudes toward alcohol control policies since the warning label mandate of 1988. J Public Policy Mark 12, 3037.
13.Kelly, B, Baur, LA, Bauman, AEet al. (2011) Tobacco and alcohol sponsorship of sporting events provide insights about how food and beverage sponsorship may affect children's health. Health Promot J Aust 22, 9196.
14.Kelly, B, Baur, LA, Bauman, AEet al. (2011) Role modelling unhealthy behaviours: food and drink sponsorship of peak sporting organisations. Health Promot J Aust 22, 7275.
15.Kelly, B, Baur, LA, Bauman, AEet al. (2011) Food and drink sponsorship of children's sport in Australia: who pays? Health Promot Int 26, 188195.
16.Maher, A, Wilson, N, Signal, Let al. (2006) Patterns of sports sponsorship by gambling, alcohol and food companies: an internet survey. BMC Public Health 6, 95.
17.Crompton, JL (1993) Sponsorship of sport by tobacco and alcohol companies: a review of the issues. J Sport Soc Iss 17, 148167.
18.Corti, B, Holman, CDJ, Donovan, RJet al. (1995) Using sponsorship to create healthy environments for sport, racing and arts venues in Western Australia. Health Promot Int 10, 185197.
19.Lynch, BM & Dunn, J (2003) Scoreboard advertising at sporting events as a health promotion medium. Health Educ Res 18, 488492.
20.Madill, J & O'Reilly, N (2010) Investigating social marketing sponsorships: terminology, stakeholders, and objectives. J Bus Res 63, 133139.
21.Corti, B, Holman, CDJ, Donovan, RJet al. (1997) Warning: attending a sport, racing or arts venue may be beneficial to your health. Aust N Z J Public Health 21, 371376.
22.Carter, MA, Edwards, R, Signal, Let al. (2012) Availability and marketing of food and beverages to children through sports settings: a systematic review. Public Health Nutr 15, 13731379.
23.Aitken, PP, Leathar, DS & Squair, SI (1986) Children's awareness of cigarette brand sponsorship of sports and games in the UK. Health Educ Res 1, 203211.
24.Kent, MP, Dubois, L & Wanless, A (2011) Food marketing on children's television in two different policy environments. Int J Pediatr Obes 6, e433e441.
25.Kihlstrom, JF (1987) The cognitive unconscious. Science 237, 14451452.
26.Chartrand, TL & Fitzsimons, GJ (2011) Nonconscious consumer psychology. J Consum Psychol 21, 13.
27.Chartrand, TL, Huber, J, Shiv, Bet al. (2008) Nonconscious goals and consumer choice. J Consum Res 35, 189201.
28.Fitzsimons, GM, Chartrand, TL & Fitzsimons, GJ (2008) Automatic effects of brand exposure on motivated behavior: how Apple makes you ‘think different’. J Consum Res 35, 2135.
29.Berger, J & Fitzsimons, G (2008) Dogs on the street, pumas on your feet: how cues in the environment influence product evaluation and choice. J Mark Res 45, 114.
30.Lytle, LA (2009) Measuring the food environment: state of the science. Am J Prev Med 36, 4 Suppl., S134S144.
31.Rogers, EM & Beal, GM (1958) Projective techniques in interviewing farmers. J Mark 23, 177179.
32.McGrath, MA, Sherry, JF & Levy, SJ (1993) Giving voice to the gift: the use of projective techniques to recover lost meanings. J Consum Psychol 2, 171191.
33.Rook, DW (1988) Researching consumer fantasy. Res Consum Behav 3, 247270.
34.Donoghue, S (2000) Projective techniques in consumer research. J Fam Ecol Consum Sci 28, 4753.
35.Richman, J (1996) Jokes as a projective technique: the humor of psychiatric patients. Am J Psychother 50, 336346.
36.Pettigrew, S & Charters, S (2008) Tasting as a projective technique. Qual Mark Res 11, 331343.
37.Belk, RW, Ger, G & Askergaard, S (2003) The fire of desire: a multisited inquiry into consumer passion. J Consum Res 30, 326351.
38.Day, E (1989) Share of heart: what is it and how can it be measured? J Consum Mark 6, 512.
39.Hussey, M & Duncombe, N (1999) Projecting the right image: using projective techniques to measure brand image. Qual Mark Res 2, 2230.
40.Levy, SJ (1985) Dreams, fairy tales, animals, and cars. Psychol Mark 2, 6781.
41.Durkin, K & Houghton, S (2000) Children's and adolescents’ stereotypes of tattooed people as delinquent. Legal Criminol Psychol 5, 153164.
42.John, DR (1999) Consumer socialization of children: a retrospective look at twenty-five years of research. J Consum Res 26, 183213.
43.Zober, M (1955) Some projective techniques applied to marketing research. J Mark 20, 262268.
44.MacGregor, A, Currie, C & Wetton, N (1998) Eliciting the views of children about health in schools through the use of the draw and write technique. Health Promot Int 13, 307318.
45.Wackman, DB & Wartella, E (1977) A review of cognitive development theory and research and the implication for research on children's responses to television. Commun Res 4, 203224.
46.Wilson, TD & Brekke, N (1994) Mental contamination and mental correction: unwanted influences on judgements and evaluations. Psychol Bull 116, 117142.
47.Charlton, A, While, D & Kelly, S (1997) Boys’ smoking and cigarette-brand-sponsored motor racing. Lancet 350, 1474.
48.Cairns, G, Angus, K & Hastings, G (2009) The Extent, Nature and Effects of Food Promotion to Children: A Review of the Evidence to December 2008. Prepared for the World Health Organization. Stirling: Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling & The Open University.
49.Chernev, A & Gal, D (2010) Categorization effects in value judgments: averaging bias in evaluating combinations of vices and virtues. J Mark Res 47, 738747.
50.Wilcox, K, Vallen, B, Block, Let al. (2009) Vicarious goal fulfillment: when the mere presence of a healthy option leads to an ironically indulgent decision. J Consum Res 36, 380393.
51.Hoek, J & Gendall, P (2006) Advertising and obesity: a behavioral perspective. J Health Commun 11, 409423.
52.Kraak, VI, Kumanyika, SK & Story, M (2009) The commercial marketing of healthy lifestyles to address the global child and adolescent obesity pandemic: prospects, pitfalls and priorities. Public Health Nutr 12, 20272036.
53.Clark, M & Brownell, R (2012) The Obesity Games. The inside track on the marketing strategies of Olympic food and soft drink sponsors, and the sponsorship deals behind them. London: Children's Food Campaign, SUSTAIN; available at
54.Clarkson, J (2010) Time to get tough on unhealthy sponsorships. Health Promot J Aust 21, 164165.
55.Wilkinson, C, Room, R & Livingston, M (2009) Mapping Australian public opinion on alcohol policies in the new millennium. Drug Alcohol Rev 28, 263274.
56.Tobin, C, Moodie, RA & Livingstone, C (2011) A review of public opinion towards alcohol controls in Australia. BMC Public Health 11, 58.
57.Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (2006) National Alcohol Strategy 2006–2009. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
58.Pettigrew, S (2002) A grounded theory of beer consumption in Australia. Qual Mark Res 5, 112122.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
  • EISSN: 1475-2727
  • URL: /core/journals/public-health-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed