13 April 2017
Cam Newton, Athletes, and Demeaning Food Advertising
Cam Newton stars in a commercial released by Dannon Yogurt back in 2015. In this commercial it shows Newton endorsing Vanilla “Triple Zero” Oikos Greek Yogurt with extra protein. Newton was born in Atlanta in 1989, and was one of the top high school football recruits in 2007. He initially attended the University of Florida, and later led Auburn University to the national title in his Heisman Award-winning season in 2010. Selected by the Carolina Panthers with the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Newton became one of the league’s biggest stars. At the tail end of his 2015 MVP season, he led the Panthers to an appearance in Super Bowl 50.
The commercial, which aired in the fall of 2015, starts with Cam Newton, being the superior, masculine, protein-eating athlete that he is, entering the grocery store as he would during a football game followed by cheerleaders. He then leads the viewer and cheerleaders down the “protein snacks” isle where he finds an average couple looking as food and tells them to follow him. They then go down to the refrigerated section where Newton points out his favorite protein-packed snack, Oikos. He then lists the healthy facts and ingredients of the yogurt to further entice the viewer. At the end of the commercial, it has the “nerdy”, white worker asking Cam if it will up his game, just like it seems it has upped Newtons. A cheerleader then jumps into the workers arms and the product is stated again and the commercial comes to an end.
In the commercial Newton is portrayed as a superior, masculine figure. This is shown by the way he enters the grocery store, what he is wearing, how the people are portrayed around him, and just by the way he is carrying himself. After reading some feedback about this commercial, some people seemed to be insulted by the fact that they were making the “white” characters seem lesser, and more dumb than Newton, they claimed that this was an often occurrence in advertising, specifically in ads that had black athletes endorsing a product. A common subject of comments that stood out most importantly to me were ones relating to why exactly do companies use athletes to promote the healthier, more “athletic” qualities in the food. For example in this ad, they have Newton promoting how there are 15 grams of protein in this specific yogurt. Would this be as effective if they just used your average grocery store shopper? Are they promoting this product to athletes? I believe that using an athlete to promote food can attract a very large range of potential consumers, from children to adults, athlete or non-athlete.
In the article, “Phil Knight on becoming a believer in advertising and forgiving athletes,” Rance Crain speaks on the topic of how using athletes in advertising is almost always controversial. He states “for us, part of good advertising is getting the consumer’s attention. And controversy under the right circumstances might be able to help…” (16). With everyone being sensitive to pretty much any topic these days, it is hard not to offend at least something, especially in the advertising world. Not everyone is going to agree with you, and thats ok, its not about that, its about who you do reach out to and having your product be a known name. But why athletes?
In another article titled “Sport, Culture and Advertising : Identities, Commodities and the Politics of Representation” authors Steven Jackson and David Andrews state that “sport is a powerful vehicle for transitional corporations and their allied advertising and promotional amateurs. As such it has an appeal that stretches beyond the field of sport…” (3). I believe that this true for multiple reasons, first is because food companies want to put into the consumers mind that if they eat their product, they too will be like Cam Newton. Secondly, they want it to be relatable. They want the consumer to think “Oh, Cam Newton is eating yogurt, I can eat it too. I want to be just like him.” This applies more to either children or panthers fans. Lastly, it puts a face with the name. Throughout the entire commercial, there is not a scene without Cam Newton’s face or voice, the company it making sure you know that it is Cam Newton who is the face of their product. That way when you go to purchase you can make the connections and think to yourself “I guess I will buy this yogurt since Cam Newton endorsed it.” These situations are exactly what the companies want to be happening and show Newton as an “expert” regarding the nutrients about this certain product.
Alongside the positives of using athletes to endorse various food products, there are issues with it as well. In an article titled “Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing” it is shown in their research that “The use of professional athlete endorsements in food marketing campaigns has been criticized by the public health community for promoting energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and sending mixed messages about fitness, health, and diet, yet no studies have examined the extent and reach of such marketing” (Bragg 2). Is this the case for Newton endorsing the Oikos protein-packed yogurt? Throughout the ad they really only focus on the good of the product, but in reality there is nothing different or better about this yogurt than any other protein, triple-bzero yogurt. The use of athletes, or specifically Cam Newton, can really just be a marketing ploy in the end.
Overall there are many ways this advertisement can be analyzed. From the masculine stereotyping that Cam Newton is spotlighted in throughout ad, him being portrayed as an expert in all things Dannon Okios Triple Zero Yogurt, specifically the protein and healthy facts, and lastly the other problematic racial and gender scenes. In the end, I believe that the producers of the commercial, and maybe even more so Okios and Cam Newton himself, are more interested in keeping his masculinity throughout to attraction the male audience that they are clearly targeting.
Bragg, M. A., S. Yanamadala, C. A. Roberto, J. L. Harris, and K. D. Brownell. “Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing.” PEDIATRICS 132.5 (2013): 805-10. Web.
Crain, Rance. “Phil Knight on Becoming a Believer in Advertising and Forgiving Athletes.” Advertising Age 84.18 (2013): 95. ProQuest. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
Jackson, Steven J. and David L. Andrews. Sport, Culture and Advertising : Identities, Commodities and the Politics of Representation. Routledge, 2005. EBSCOhost, proxy.library.vcu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&AuthType=ip,url,cookie,uid&db=nlebk&AN=116708&site=ehost- live&scope=site.
OikosYogurt. Dannon Oikos Triple Zero: Cam Newton TV Commercial. YouTube, 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.