Beverage companies spent $1B advertising to youth in 2018, UConn study says


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — In 2018, beverage companies spent more than $1 billion on TV advertisements for sugary drinks and energy drinks, particularly targeting youth in Black and Hispanic communities, according to a new UConn study.

The University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that $874 million went solely to TV advertising. $46 million was used for digital ads, $43 million for magazine pages, $40 million for outdoor advertising, and $31 million for radio. All other forms of advertising added up to $6 million.

PepsiCo was responsible for 38% of all sugary drink advertising on TV, and 31% for Coca-Cola — almost 70% of all beverage advertising in 2018. Around two dozen additional beverage companies also contributed to advertising, including Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and Red Bull.

Total ad spending by beverage companies for TV advertising in 2018. Graph: UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

$586 million went toward advertising for soda brands, a 26% increase compared to 2013.

Advertising for sweetened iced tea nearly tripled, from $38 million in 2013 to $111 million in 2018. Exposure to iced tea TV ads increased by more than two-and-a-half times for preschoolers and children and by 68% for teens.

For unsweetened drinks including bottled water and 100% juice, advertising totaled $573 million.

Sports drink advertising increased by 24%, totaling $159 million in 2018.

Researchers have also concluded the beverage companies have continued to target children and teenagers in Black and Hispanic communities for their products through TV advertising.

Jennifer Harris, a Sr. Research Adviser at UConn Rudd Center explained, “The companies also say that they don’t advertise to children, but teenagers are seeing a lot of these ads and a lot of the data that we have show that they are directly targeting teenagers.”

98% of beverage advertising on Spanish-language TV came from PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple, and Innovation Ventures spending a total of $84 million in 2018. Powerade dedicated nearly one-third of its TV advertising budget to those channels.

Black children saw over twice as many advertisements for sugary drinks compared to white children, even though TV viewing times were down for all age groups. And, in particular, Black youth was highly exposed to ads for sports drinks, regular soda, and energy drinks.

To read the full report from UConn, click here.

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