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Eat, drink and gamble: marketing messages about ‘risky’ products in an Australian major sporting series

Sophie Lindsay1, Samantha Thomas2*, Sophie Lewis3, Kate Westberg4, Rob Moodie5 and Sandra Jones2

Author affiliations

1 Faculty of Business and Economics, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

2 Centre for Health Initiatives, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia

3 Faculty of Health Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

4 School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

5 Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:719  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-719

Published: 5 August 2013



To investigate the alcohol, gambling, and unhealthy food marketing strategies during a nationally televised, free to air, sporting series in Australia.


Using the Australian National Rugby League 2012 State of Origin three-game series, we conducted a mixed methods content analysis of the frequency, duration, placement and content of advertising strategies, comparing these strategies both within and across the three games.


There were a total of 4445 episodes (mean = 1481.67, SD = 336.58), and 233.23 minutes (mean = 77.74, SD = 7.31) of marketing for alcoholic beverages, gambling products and unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages during the 360 minutes of televised coverage of the three State of Origin 2012 games. This included an average per game of 1354 episodes (SD = 368.79) and 66.29 minutes (SD = 7.62) of alcohol marketing; 110.67 episodes (SD = 43.89), and 8.72 minutes (SD = 1.29) of gambling marketing; and 17 episodes (SD = 7.55), and 2.74 minutes (SD = 0.78) of unhealthy food and beverage marketing. Content analysis revealed that there was a considerable embedding of product marketing within the match play, including within match commentary, sporting equipment, and special replays.


Sport is increasingly used as a vehicle for the promotion of range of ‘risky consumption’ products. This study raises important ethical and health policy questions about the extent and impact of saturation and incidental marketing strategies on health and wellbeing, the transparency of embedded marketing strategies, and how these strategies may influence product consumption.