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Superbowl XLVI Commercials Contradict NFL’s Play 60 Initiative

The final moments of Superbowl XLVI saw 12,233 tweets per second, needless to say there were millions of viewers. Loyal football fans reached an overnight rating of 47.8, according to Darren Rovell of CSNBC. With so many viewers, why would the NFL defy their very own Play 60 initiative through the commercials during the Superbowl? Play 60 kicked off in 2007, focusing on young people to be active (or play) for at least 60 minutes a day. Through their efforts, the NFL hopes to reduce childhood obesity rates. Play 60 advocates have put together a list of fun activities to get kids exercising without even realizing it- a novel effort for the children of America. Each activity is named after a different NFL player. The back drop on the Play 60 website (at the time this article was written) is an advertisement for the Superbowl (right). I don’t think it’s a far off guess to assume that the children who participate in Play 60, as well as many other children, watch the Superbowl with their families- the 12,000 tweeters. 126 commercials and sponsorship announcements were aired during Superbowl XLVI, beginning after Kelly Clarkson sang the National Anthem until The Voice premiere immediately following the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation and Eli Manning’s MVP Award. Of the 126 commercials and sponsorship announcements, only seven (5.5%) were related to health, fitness and wellbeing. The first was a Volkswagen commercial featuring an overweight dog. The dog worked to eat healthier, exercise, and lose weight to catch the Volkswagen on screen. Sketchers took the second commercial with a very quick statement after the dog moon-walked across the race finish line: Go Run. The third was an advertisement for the NFL Play 60 initiative in conjunction with Xbox 360 Kinect. Oikos Greek Yogurt, coming in at an A to B- range on the Fooducate application, took the fourth commercial by focusing the attention of a how delicious a healthy product can be. Lesson learned- not even John Stamos is worthy of eating all the Oikos. A local advertisement for Mercy Health was the fifth health-related commercial. The sixth and seventh commercials took place after the MVP Award and before the premiere of The Voice. The sixth was a Nicorette commercial to help people achieve a better lifestyle, and the seventh was an ad for 5 Hour Energy. While I don’t know how healthy a 5 Hour Energy shot really is, it still speaks to the overall well-being, and craving for more energy our society has.

An alarming 21.4% of the commercials and sponsorship announcements promoted an unhealthy diet, a large contributing factor to childhood obesity. Poor diet promotions included Budlight and Budweiser, Doritos snacks, M & M’s Candy, Coke, Pepsi, Wendy’s fast food, McDonald’s fast food, and a local fast food restaurant, Skyline Chili. This figure excludes the Chevrolet commercial which featured the fast food chain Frisch’s Big Boy and Hostess Twinkies. (Image left, courtesy of Want to do an experiment (come on, it will be fun)? Let’s pretend we ate or drank all of the unhealthy items advertised, during the Superbowl. If each commercial or sponsorship announcement counted as one serving of the advertised product, we would have consumed 6 Budlights, 5 Budweisers, 5 Cokes (8 oz glass bottles, a polar bear’s favorite), 3 Pepsis (12 oz cans), 3 servings of Doritos (about 11 chips), 1 serving of M&M’s (about 1.69 oz), a 3-Way from Skyline, 2 single cheeseburgers from Wendy’s and a cheeseburger from McDonald’s. Totaling 5,265 calories between the hours of 6:30 to 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night. Calories from fat for each of the beverages are not included on the provided nutritional information; if we only count the advertised food products, the calories from fat are 1,360 out of 2,930 total calories (that’s 46.4%!). Isn’t the NFL, with its Play 60 partnership, allowing extremely poor diet options to advertise during their biggest event of the year just like a pro-life organization allowing Planned Parenthood to promote during their biggest event of the year? How do we change this culture of poor food choices and unhealthy habits? Some would say the New Age Movement has begun to do so already through awareness of holistic health and the mind, body and spirit. Can I be honest with you? Before I began my research, I lumped all those who embraced a “holistic” lifestyle in a category I’ve always labeled: Hippies. To better illustrate my originally closed point of view, I invite you to watch the short YouTube video clip I found. It pretty much sums up what ran through my mind when I heard “holistic health” for the first time. Maybe you’re thinking the same thing right about now. Is (was) anyone else with me? After further investigating this holistic notion, I thought I would help break down the barrier for others who may have originally thought holistic meant tree hugging hippies. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, Holistic simply means to be concerned with the “complete system” as opposed to parts. Holistic health is the blending of a healthy mind, body and spirit. The idea is, to be healthy one must focus on the physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental aspects of their life. Still not buying into it? Let me ask you a few questions.

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Have you had a massage recently? If not, would you like a massage? Have you/ do you participate in a Yoga class?

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Have you invested in a water filtration system such as Brita? Have you adopted a vegetarian or vegan diet? Even as simple as Meatless Monday’s? Do you take vitamins or supplements to aide your diet? Have you done, or would you consider acupuncture? Are you interested in ways to sustain your energy throughout the day?

If you were able to answer yes to any of the questions above (if you try to tell me no, I’ll know you were lying because who doesn’t want a massage?), then you are already on your way to accepting a more holistic lifestyle. If you’re already hooked, check out this short YouTube video about a local holistic resource, St. Elizabeth Healthcare. While some may still be grasping the idea of “holistic health”, you don’t have to be an NFL athlete or a member of Play 60 to be healthy. We, as a culture, have to learn how to consume the beers, M&M’s, Doritos, and cheeseburgers of the world in moderation. A message from Regina M. Benjamin, the Surgeon General, in 2010 states,

“Every one of us has an important role to play in the prevention and control of obesity. Mothers, fathers, teachers, business executives, child care professionals, clinicians, politicians, and government and community leaders—we must all commit to changes that promote the health and wellness of our families and communities. As a nation, we must create neighborhood communities that are focused on healthy nutrition and regular physical activity, where the healthiest choices are accessible for all citizens. Children should be having fun and playing in environments that provide parks, recreational facilities, community centers, and walking and bike paths. Healthy foods should be affordable and accessible. Increased consumer knowledge and awareness about healthy nutrition and physical activity will foster a growing demand for healthy food products and exercise options, dramatically influencing marketing trends.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates in children have more than tripled in the past 30 years. That, among others on the website, is an alarming statistic. It is understandable that the NFL would try to reverse this destructive trend. Averaging $3.5 million for a 30 second slot, I suppose it is also understandable that the NFL, creators of the Superbowl and Play 60, would allow anyone to advertise during their big show- or is it?

It seems to me that on organization drawing millions of fans to one television program on NBC, Superbowl XLVI, shares some of the responsibility in promoting a healthy nation as stated above. While carrying through with the Surgeon General’s request on one end with Play 60, they are not only contradicting their own efforts, but they are failing to prevent obesity by allowing the promotion of unhealthy habits. (NFL’s Play 60 logo to right)