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The nature and extent of online marketing by Big Food and Big Alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: content analysis study

Martino, Florentine, Brooks, Ruby, Browne, Jennifer, Carah, Nicholas, Zorbas, Christina, Corben, Kirstan, Saleeba, Emma, Martin, Jane, Peeters, Anna and Backholer, Kathryn 2021, The nature and extent of online marketing by Big Food and Big Alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: content analysis study, JMIR public health and surveillance, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 1-16, doi: 10.2196/25202.

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Title The nature and extent of online marketing by Big Food and Big Alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: content analysis study
Author(s) Martino, FlorentineORCID iD for Martino, Florentine orcid.org/0000-0001-6718-5239
Brooks, Ruby
Browne, JenniferORCID iD for Browne, Jennifer orcid.org/0000-0002-6497-2541
Carah, Nicholas
Zorbas, ChristinaORCID iD for Zorbas, Christina orcid.org/0000-0002-7343-2424
Corben, Kirstan
Saleeba, Emma
Martin, Jane
Peeters, AnnaORCID iD for Peeters, Anna orcid.org/0000-0003-4340-9132
Backholer, KathrynORCID iD for Backholer, Kathryn orcid.org/0000-0002-3323-575X
Journal name JMIR public health and surveillance
Volume number 7
Issue number 3
Article ID e25202
Start page 1
End page 16
Total pages 16
Publisher JMIR Publications
Place of publication Toronto, Ont.
Publication date 2021-03
ISSN 2369-2960
2369-2960
Keyword(s) alcohol
food and beverage
COVID-19
marketing
social media
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
Science & Technology
Summary Background Emerging evidence demonstrates that obesity is associated with a higher risk of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. Excessive alcohol consumption and “comfort eating” as coping mechanisms during times of high stress have been shown to further exacerbate mental and physical ill-health. Global examples suggest that unhealthy food and alcohol brands and companies are using the COVID-19 pandemic to further market their products. However, there has been no systematic, in-depth analysis of how “Big Food” and “Big Alcohol” are capitalizing on the COVID-19 pandemic to market their products and brands. Objective We aimed to quantify the extent and nature of online marketing by alcohol and unhealthy food and beverage companies during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Methods We conducted a content analysis of all COVID-19-related social media posts made by leading alcohol and unhealthy food and beverage brands (n=42) and their parent companies (n=12) over a 4-month period (February to May 2020) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Results Nearly 80% of included brands and all parent companies posted content related to COVID-19 during the 4-month period. Quick service restaurants (QSRs), food and alcohol delivery companies, alcohol brands, and bottle shops were the most active in posting COVID-19-related content. The most common themes for COVID-19-related marketing were isolation activities and community support. Promotion of hygiene and home delivery was also common, particularly for QSRs and alcohol and food delivery companies. Parent companies were more likely to post about corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, such as donations of money and products, and to offer health advice. Conclusions This is the first study to show that Big Food and Big Alcohol are incessantly marketing their products and brands on social media platforms using themes related to COVID-19, such as isolation activities and community support. Parent companies are frequently posting about CSR initiatives, such as donations of money and products, thereby creating a fertile environment to loosen current regulation or resist further industry regulation. “COVID-washing” by large alcohol brands, food and beverage brands, and their parent companies is both common and concerning. The need for comprehensive regulations to restrict unhealthy food and alcohol marketing, as recommended by the World Health Organization, is particularly acute in the COVID-19 context and is urgently required to “build back better” in a post-COVID-19 world.
Language eng
DOI 10.2196/25202
Indigenous content off
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Free to Read? Yes
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30149214

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Health
School of Psychology
Open Access Collection
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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.