Kill Em With Soda: An open letter to Selena Gomez and other pop stars shilling sugary drinks

printer friendlyprinter friendly

Ay! Selena.

You've broken my heart.

As a longtime fan I can forgive your taste in men (Justin Bieber). Or your refusal to speak Spanish (Selena Quintanilla, the slain Tejano superstar you were named after, at least tried). But your latest role as spokesperson and participant in Coca-Cola's Share a Coke and a Song campaign is, well, hard to swallow.

As the nation's most famous Latina (sorry JLo, but Selena just broke the record for the most liked Instagram post ever — a photo of her drinking a Coke) and a major role model for young people, you have a responsibility to understand the severity of the problem you are contributing to. Coke and other sugary drinks are the leading source of excess calories and a major contributor to diabetes, heart disease and other nutrition-related illnesses. What's worse is that communities of color, particularly Latinos and African Americans, suffer the most from these diseases. By being the face of Coke's new campaign and lending your hit song titles for Coke to display on its labels, you are in essence encouraging our youth to drink what some scientists have called poison.

You've shared in promotional social media and video posts that you're an avid Coke drinker and your alleged BFF Taylor Swift drinks Diet Coke, and that your participation in the campaign was "a no-brainer." But there is an obvious disconnect between your words and the impact soda has on young lives. The science is clear: Staying away from soda and other sugary drinks is a no-brainer.

The same can be said about Beyoncé and her 2013 gig as the face of Pepsi. While the pop superstar has recently taken up the theme of racial justice in her music, it is a contradiction to her endorsement of Pepsi. She may not have realized that aggressive target marketing of a product that negatively and disproportionately impacts youth of color is also a racial justice issue — a problem she could join us in fighting.

A number of studies and media reports have shown that celebrities endorse mostly junk food and sugary drinks. The most recent study from New York University is the first to conduct a thorough nutritional analysis of the food and beverage products marketed by pop music stars, revealing millions worth of big money endorsements for sugary drinks, fast food and sweets. The report found only one pop star promoting healthy food — pistachios, plugged by one-hit wonder PSY, whose song "Gangnam Style" was a favorite at big sporting events.

The study's authors concluded that their results "can inform policies designed to address the use of celebrities in food marketing. Many food and beverage companies have agreed not to target children under 12 years old, but these pledges should include adolescents as well."

Sure, I understand the desire to build wealth through endorsements and that celebrities have a limited window of opportunity to capitalize on their fame. But there are options. Take NBA star Stephen Curry, who eschewed sugary drinks for H2O as spokesman for Brita water filters. Research suggests that using celebrity spokes-characters to promote healthy foods to children might be just as effective in changing children's diets for the better. Real live celebrities are sure to have the same impact.

Selena, we hope you follow suit and next time promote healthier products to kids. In the meantime, advocates have no other choice but to include you in our counter to Coke's campaign. We've come up with our own song titles for Coke labels and shared them on Twitter and Facebook: "Toxic" by Britney Spears and "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flack, to name a few.

coke and a song campaign redux

In your case, it would be fitting to alter the title of your latest single and video, "Kill Em With Kindness." I'd suggest "Kill Em With Soda."


junk food (2) violence (2) sandusky (2) ACEs (2) Michelle Obama (1) water security (1) personal responsibility rhetoric (1) nanny state (2) Rachel Grana (1) community (1) Food Marketing Workgroup (1) media advocacy (21) Newtown (1) adverse childhood experiences (3) auto safety (1) apha (2) women's health (2) Tea Party (1) diabetes (1) communication (2) regulation (2) childhood obestiy conference (1) Texas (1) seat belt laws (1) gender (1) food deserts (1) Golden Gate Bridge (2) autism (1) gun control (2) community violence (1) cancer prevention (1) soda industry (4) social media (2) product safety (1) Connecticut shooting (1) democracy (1) beauty products (1) inequities (1) diabetes prevention (1) race (1) mental health (2) news analysis (3) summer camps (1) Oglala Sioux (3) Joe Paterno (1) marketing (1) Bill Cosby (1) messaging (3) tobacco control (2) news monitoring (1) Dora the Explorer (1) sexual violence (2) Big Food (2) soda warning labels (1) sanitation (1) front groups (1) Richmond (5) food access (1) naacp (1) target marketing (7) Sandy Hook (2) structural racism (1) industry appeals to choice (1) community safety (1) community health (1) news (2) cap the tap (1) emergency contraception (1) breastfeeding (3) food marketing (3) institutional accountability (1) world water day (1) Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (2) health care (1) soda tax (11) alcohol (5) california (1) weight of the nation (1) measure N (2) gatorade bolt game (1) language (6) chronic disease (2) safety (1) prison system (1) prevention (1) cigarette advertising (1) childhood adversity (1) sugar-sweetened beverages (2) Pine Ridge reservation (1) Big Tobacco (3) public health (67) suicide barrier (2) digital marketing (2) ssb (1) Chile (1) abortion (1) Johnson & Johnson (1) SB-5 (1) Sam Kass (1) Telluride (1) child sexual abuse (5) beverage industry (2) Jerry Sandusky (3) cosmetics (1) sexual health (1) cervical cancer (1) education (1) Coca-Cola (3) water (1) Wendy Davis (1) soda (12) personal responsibility (3) Amanda Fallin (1) Proposition 47 (1) privilege (1) equity (3) reproductive justice (1) SB 402 (1) junk food marketing (3) social justice (1) Proposition 29 (1) healthy eating (1) food justice (1) soda taxes (2) childhood obesity (1) tobacco industry (2) Donald Trump (2) Nickelodeon (1) food and beverage marketing (3) SSBs (1) Berkeley (2) Twitter (1) Twitter for advocacy (1) childhood trauma (3) El Monte (3) Colorado (1) indoor smoking ban (1) social math (1) public health policy (2) paula deen (1) Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes (1) Oakland Unified School District (1) food swamps (1) genital warts (1) children's health (3) Gardasil (1) george lakoff (1) San Francisco (3) SB 1000 (1) prison phone calls (1) media bites (1) journalism (1) corporate social responsibility (1) violence prevention (8) tobacco (5) collaboration (1) obesity (10) gun violence (1) Marion Nestle (1) food industry (4) sugary drinks (10) Catholic church (1) stigma (1) values (1) Penn State (3) vaccines (1) obesity prevention (1) Black Lives Matter (1) physical activity (1) government intrusion (1) community organizing (1) PepsiCo (1) campaign finance (1) food environment (1) filibuster (1) McDonald's (1) authentic voices (1) Let's Move (1) cancer research (1) suicide prevention (2) news coverage (1) youth (1) Measure O (1) online marketing (1) suicide nets (1) health equity (10) environmental health (1) advocacy (3) food (1) white house (1) racism (1) sports drinks (1) junk food marketing to kids (2) sexual assault (1) paper tigers (1) public health data (1) American Beverage Association (1) Aurora (1) snap (1) Merck (1) Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (1) Whiteclay (4) Bloomberg (3) elephant triggers (1) tobacco tax (1) FCC (1) political correctness (1) media analysis (5) choice (1) liana winett (1) sexism (2) framing (14) childhood lead poisoning (1) election 2016 (1) Big Soda (2) social change (1) HPV vaccine (1) Happy Meals (1) media (7) Citizens United (1) news strategy (1) built environment (2) default frame (1) new year's resolutions (1)
  • Follow Us On Facebook
  • Follow Us On Twitter
  • Join Us On Youtube
  • BMSG RSS Feed

get e-alerts in your inbox: