Obesity is a major issue in the United States today. According to WebMD.com, 63.1% of adults in the U.S. were either overweight or obese in 2009. Making sure that today’s youth do not follow the same pattern as the older generation is an issue that needs to be addressed. The NFL has launched a campaign designed to be proactive in reducing adult obesity by targeting children, teaching them healthy habits in their youth. That campaign is called Play 60. In this research study, I will use previous research in a review of literature to examine what the Play 60 campaign is, why childhood obesity is an issue and how it is caused, the effects of athlete and celebrity endorsements and the effects of campaigns on children. I will propose a research question and predict that children will want to play more after seeing NFL Play 60 commercials. I then set up a research study in experimental format using a control group and treatment group with sixth grade children as the participants. The study will test the differences in physical fitness behavior between the two groups after watching a month long series of commercials.
The childhood obesity epidemic is a growing issue in the United States today. Kimbro, Brooks-Gunn, & McLanahan (2007) observed that since 1971 the prevalence of overweight children in the United States has more than 100% increased, and the rates are expected to continue increasing (p. 298-305). Many organizations and people in the United States have noticed this trend and several have implemented programs to try and tackle this problem among today’s youth to try and make the next generation of Americans healthier. Aware of this alarming issue, the National Football League organized a campaign called Play 60 geared toward children and parents. This campaign set out to combat childhood obesity by making today’s youth more physically active. This campaign used a series of commercials featuring different NFL teams and players interacting with children. So far the NFL has dedicated over 200 million dollars to youth programs through Play 60, and all 32 NFL teams have participated in the campaign in some way. This research study will test to see if these commercials actually have an effect on children. Will children actually participate in more physical activity just by viewing these commercials? Play 60 had donated so much of their time and money in order to get their message of physical fitness out to children in hopes that the children will lead a more active lifestyle. I want to see if their money and their advertising are doing justice. Also, other than Play 60, there are other campaigns out there geared toward the encouragement of physical activity in children. One of those campaigns is Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. I want to see in this study if doing the Play 60 campaign, and other fitness campaigns for that matter, is worthwhile. This research study will use past research on the effects of athlete and celebrity campaigns and the effects of campaigns on children to see if children will respond to a fitness campaign and see if their physical fitness behavior changes.
Review of Literature
NFL Play 60 Campaign
The National Football League implemented a campaign several years ago titled Play 60. This purpose of this campaign is to encourage children to be active for at least 60 minutes a day in order to try and reverse the trend of childhood obesity. (nflrush.com/play60). Mark Fuerst (2010) found that the American Heart Association recommends 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children in order to increase life expectancy and decrease future cardiovascular risks such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. The children are encouraged to be active through in school, after school, and team-based programs. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints quarterback, told the Yahoo! Sports blog “The Shutdown Corner” that this campaign is a way to encourage and educate children about the importance of having good diet and exercise practices. Play 60 teamed up with the American Heart Association in 2006 to create the NFL Play 60 Challenge. So far, the Play 60 Challenge has reached more than 25,000 middle schools in the U.S. and is one of the largest initiatives that exist to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. Team’s websites also offer fitness tips and offer an option for teachers to download a curriculum for physical activity from the American Heart Association to encourage children to get involved in the Play 60 challenge. There is a website, nflrush.com, where children and parents can go and experience virtual interaction to learn a little more about the campaign. The NFL shows regular commercials promoting this campaign and showing NFL players being active with children. The commercials that are shown and targeted toward children will be the main focus of this research study.
There are 32 teams in the National Football League, and they all participate in local Play 60 activities. Players and team mascots also visit schools in their area on a regular basis. For example, the Atlanta Falcons have a program called “First Down for Fitness,” in which seventh graders are encouraged to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. This program implements components of the Play 60 campaign. It includes the “Fuel Up to Play 60” campaign that is like Play 60, only it teaches children healthy eating habits so that they will be able to play longer. In 2009 there were 33,000 students in 119 Georgia schools that participated in this program. Also, more than 400 inner-city children living in Denver, Colorado participated in the Play 60 Challenge in 2010 with the support of the Denver Broncos and Boys & Girls Club of Denver. In 2010, dozens of Chicago middle school and more than 1,000 students participated in the Play 60 campaign (p.1-3).
Researchers have found several factors that contribute to and cause obesity in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007) found that genetic contributions play a role in the development of childhood obesity, but they do not wholly account for obesity and behavioral factor are involved as well (p. WEBSITE). Hills, King and Armstrong (2007) also found that a combination of environmental pressures, technological factors and societal transitions from childhood to adulthood can increase sedentary behaviors, which may lead to weight gain in children (p. 533-545). A main contributor to childhood obesity, and the main focus of this research study, is lack of physical activity. Donahue, Haskins & Paxson (2006) observed, “approximately 92% of elementary students and 66% of high school students do not have daily physical education classes throughout the year” (p. 6). Timlin, Pereira, Story & Neumark-Sztainer (2008) and Anderson, Crespo & Bartlett (1998) found that skipping breakfast and sedentary activities, such as watching too much television, are contributing factors in childhood obesity (p. 938).
There are several studies that show why childhood obesity is an epidemic and a major problem in the United States today. Ogden, Flegal, Carroll & Johnson (2006) stated that childhood obesity is a major public health issue in the United States due to the fact that in the past 3 decades, childhood obesity prevalence has more than tripled (p. 1549-1555). Fontaine, Redden & Wang (2003) showed that this issue is a problem because studies show that children who remain obese into adulthood can have their life expectancy shortened up to 20 years. Behunin and Vitelli (2010) found that childhood obesity has been a talked about issue in Utah, where nearly a quarter of the state’s children are obese, and other states (p. 1). A campaign called “LiVe” was launched due to this, teaching children 8 healthy habits to live by for fitness and good nutrition. First Lady Michelle Obama even recognizes this epidemic, launching her own campaign called “Let’s Move!” The campaign is an attempt for America to raise a healthier generation and prevent childhood obesity (Behunin and Vitelli, p. 1). Now that we know that there are campaigns out there directed toward preventing childhood obesity, we must now see what the effects are of athlete and celebrity promotion.
Effects of Athlete and Celebrity Endorsement
Friedman & Friedman (1979) defined celebrity endorsers as “actors, athletes, or entertainers who are known to the public for their achievements” (p.63-71). Kim and Na (2007) explained celebrity endorsement effectiveness in terms of the source attractiveness and source credibility models. “The source attractiveness model asserts that the effectiveness of a message depends on the similarity, familiarity and liking of an endorser (McGuire model), and the source credibility model asserts that the effectiveness of a message depends on the level of expertise and trustworthiness of an endorser (Hovland model). These models show that any celebrity or athlete that is credible and/or attractive can be persuading to their audience (p. 311). Kim and Na also found that the Match-Up hypothesis “suggests that endorsers are more effective when there is a corresponding relationship between the endorser and the endorsed product” (p. 312). In other words, messages conveyed by athletes and the thing they are promoting should be similar in order to be effective. Going along with this observation, let’s return back to Michelle Obama’s campaign, “Let’s Move!” According to these findings by scholars, the NFL Play 60 campaign should have a greater affect on children to go out and be active. This is so because the “Let’s Move!” commercials feature Michelle Obama. She is not an athlete. The NFL Play 60 commercials feature actual NFL players. Therefore, they should be effective. Bandura (1977) and Shead, Walsh, Taylor, Derevensky & Gupta (2010) found similar results. He says that an advantage of using celebrities as spokespersons (as opposed to non-celebrities) is that the audience can identify more readily with a spokesperson that is familiar to them. “Social learning theory proposes that individuals are more likely to model another’s behaviors when they believe they are similar to the model in question” (p. 171). These observations relate directly to this research study. These results prove that athletes are a credible source for promoting fitness to children, since athletes use fitness every day in their career. You cannot be an athlete without fitness. Therefore, an NFL player promoting the Play 60 campaign should be effective and believable.
Kim and Na (2007) did a study to test the effects of celebrity athlete endorsement on products by looking at congruence between the athlete endorser and the endorsed product. They asked college students to look at products endorsed by a fictional celebrity and measure credibility. The results were “when the celebrity athlete endorsed sports shoes rather than perfume, the credibility and attractiveness can be favorable evaluations of the product, whereas when the celebrity athlete endorses perfume, the attractiveness can be transferred to favorable evaluations of the product.” They also found that “participants expressed more favorable attitudes toward the endorsed product when the concept of athlete endorser was congruent with the endorsed product” (p. 318). This shows that credibility can only apply to the athlete endorser if they endorse something that they know about, such as the importance of physical fitness. Shead, Walsh, Taylor, Derevensky & Gupta (2010) also found that celebrities need to be selected carefully for the campaigns they promote and the audience that they are appealing to. They observed “selecting a celebrity who appeals to a wide audience across time remains challenging due to the often tenuous nature of celebrity status, particularly among youth whose preferences in celebrities evolve as they mature” (p.174). The NFL using players from all teams to promote Play 60 proves that they took this factor into consideration. Thus, the campaign should be effective.
Brown, Basil & Bocarnea (2003) found that there are several studies that show that celebrities can effectively persuade people to adopt certain health-related practices. A study that they observed addressed the influence of celebrities on health-related knowledge, beliefs and behaviors. They point out that many athletes participate in public service announcements to promote beneficial health behaviors, and “repeated discussion by a sports celebrity of a specific health issue can have a more powerful effect on the public” (p. 44). This notion is exactly what I am trying to prove will happen as a result of my research study. They give an example to supportive this claim. They observed Magic Johnson becoming a spokesperson for HIV prevention. They observed that when Johnson gave speeches to the public and did an HIV-prevention video, “teenagers and young adults listened to Johnson and were positively influenced by his message” (p. 44). Leerhsen (1991) showed some fascinating statistics after Magic Johnson became a spokesperson for HIV prevention. He found that just a day after Johnson announced at a news conference that he was HIV positive and would become a spokesperson for HIV prevention, “the National AIDS hotline logged some 40,000 calls, a 10-fold increase from the average number of daily calls received” (p. 58-62). These statistics show the heavy influence that athletes have on people. If Magic Johnson’s campaign can influence the actions of adults, imagine what NFL player’s commercials can do for children’s behavior.
Boorstin (1961) and Campbell (1988) observed that in American society today, as well as other heavy mediated societies, celebrities have replaced traditional heroes of the past. Brown, Basil & Bocarnea (2003) found that like celebrities, “famous athletes also draw extensive media coverage as televised sports expands its audience” (p. 43). They explain that public knowledge about the athlete’s personal lives is greater today than it ever has been in the past, and their lifestyles now provide a means of socially influencing large amounts of people. They also found that mass exposure to the lives of celebrities occurs when media consumers seek role models in the athletes that they follow. “Traditional role models such as parents, relatives, and neighbors are people who are personally known in communities and who demonstrate acts of courage and moral character.” Celebrity athlete role models oppose these people. Famous athletes “are seldom known personally by those emulating their behavior” (p. 43). Therefore, these athletes are not required by their followed to possess any virtue other than being athletically talented to be a role model. Moral character of the athletes is ignored in these scenarios. Levy (1979) found that media users start to feel that athletes and celebrities are their friends and develop an intimacy level with them. Thus, according to Brown, Basil & Bocarnea (2003), “a television viewer could ‘identify’ with a ‘baseball star’ by adopting similar behavior exhibited by the player with whom the viewer wants to relate” (p. 46 & 47). The person would adopt the attitudes, values and behaviors of the athlete because he or she believes in the athlete and it is not required that the person “role modeling” the behavior actually interacts with the “role model.” Basically, it is not required that the athlete and the person adopting the athlete’s values ever meet for the athlete’s values to be copied. Children simply watching the NFL players display physical fitness can allow them to copy that behavior. No in-person meeting is required.
Effects of Campaigns on Children
Joan Murray (2001) examined nutrition programs geared toward children in 2001 and found that they may have been ineffective because of the tone and manner in the way they deal with the topic of health. “Public-health messages-especially those aimed at children-often are full of facts and figures and carry a moralistic tone to convey the seriousness of the concerned issues” (p. 62). This advertising strategy was proven to be ineffective. So what does work for children? Flores (2006) observed a campaign titled “Food, Fun and Fitness Internet Program for Girls,” an American nutritional campaign targeted at African American girls ages 8-10. This campaign, Flores pointed out, successfully addressed the issue of childhood obesity. “The series used Internet-based media and create culturally sensitive animated characters that depicted the girls and their varying health and nutrition related habits and preferences” (p. 8-9). Scholars observe that this type of campaign is an effective way to advertise to children. Scammon and Christopher (1981) that using celebrities and characters to appeal to children works because children immediately associate the attitudes modeled by the celebrities with rewards from consumption of that attitude or product. In other words, children will see the celebrity (or athlete) emulating a behavior and automatically assume the rewards from following such behavior. Maher, Hu and Kolbe (2006); Neeley and Schumann (2004); Rust and Watkins (1975) and Wells (1965) found that there are six elements that have been proven to be effective when advertising to children. Two of these elements directly apply to the NFL’s Play 60 campaign’s commercials. One is that children like demonstrations of product performance, such as bigger muscles or an increase in athletic capability. Two, advertising for children should not have heavy informational content. It should instead focus on creating favorable attitudes through emotional messages and appeals.
Behunin and Vitelli (2010) explored how the LiVe campaign, in Utah, marketed their active lifestyle campaign to children by outlining a care process model for physicians, promoting a series of advertisements that appeared on TV, web, radio and billboards, and reached out to parents. At the time of the campaign, nearly a quarter of Utah’s children were obese. A year after the launch of LiVe, the campaign conducted a random sample survey of LiVe age children in Utah by calling them on the telephone. They asked the children if the campaign encouraged them to think, talk, and/or do more about living healthy. “Of kids who recalled LiVe/ViVe, 94 percent said they thought more, 79 percent talked more and 87 percent did more to be healthy as a result of the campaign” (p. 17). In 2010, Utah had the lowest percentage of obese children in the nation. This campaign shows that children can and will respond to campaigns that lead the toward living more healthy and active lifestyle. Judging by the results of the LiVe campaign, the NFL’s Play 60 campaign is just as effective on getting children to be active and live healthier lifestyles.
I have chosen to use a research question in this research study. I am using a research question in this study as opposed to a hypothesis because I do not have enough information to make a prediction. In my research study, I have found how previous campaigns effect children. I have also seen how athlete and celebrity endorsements affect people. For example, I mentioned that Scammon and Christopher (1981) found that using celebrities and characters to appeal to children works because children immediately associate the attitudes modeled by the celebrities with rewards from consumption of that attitude or product. However, I have not seen enough evidence on the effect of athlete campaigns, rather than celebrity campaigns, directly on children. Also, these Play 60 commercials are asking children to adopt a behavior rather than purchase a product. The above finding is the only solid fact in my review of literature that features the effects of athletes and celebrities asking children to adopt a behavior rather than a product. Therefore, I am using a research question. My research question is: How do the NFL’s Play 60 campaign commercials effect the physical fitness behavior of children? The physical fitness behavior of the children in this study is the dependent variable. The experimental format of the research study will be designed to test the differences between the behaviors of the control and treatment groups of sixth grade children. The children’s behavior will either change or not change. That is, the children will either say that they play more after watching the Play 60 commercials, or they will say that they play less or the same amount. I believe that the children in the treatment group, watching the NFL Play 60 commercials, will play more after watching these commercials. Based on the results found in my review of literature, the children should want to play because they will see athletes playing and feel a strong urge to adopt similar behavior. They will see the athletes working out and want to copy exactly what they are doing.
The participants in this research study than I plan to use are sixth grade students at Oakdale Elementary School in Tuscaloosa, AL. Every single student in the sixth grade classes at Oakdale Elementary in Tuscaloosa, AL will be the population. I determined the participants in this study by using a non-probability, purposive sample. I chose to use a purposive sample because I chose these sixth grade classes with a purpose. I need to see how the Play 60 campaign is going to affect the physical fitness patterns of children. I needed to test children only, and I also needed to make sure that the children would be old enough to understand the questions on a survey and answer them truthfully. Also, a non-probability sample was chosen because it is not logical for me to get a list of every child in the school and number then because I need a specific age group of children. Children in grades lower than sixth are not reliable in expecting them to understand survey questions or answer them truthfully. Since I am using a non-probability sample, this study will not be generalizable to all children.
The two sixth grade classes are going to be given a survey at the beginning of the study. I will explain to the children that they need to circle one answer. The classes will then be shown two different commercials over the course of a month. One class, the treatment group, will be watching the NFL’s Play 60 commercials. This group is my treatment group because they are the ones that I am manipulating. The other sixth grade class, the control group, will be shown commercials for Target supercenter. I chose to show them Target commercials because I need them to watch commercials that have nothing to do with fitness or health. The classes will watch their respective videos twice a week for a month. I will go to the schools and show the videos to the students personally to make sure that there will be no reliability or validity issues. At the end of the month, the students will be given the same survey that they took previous to watching the commercials. I will then compare the scores from the two classes and test the difference to see if the behavior of the children has changed in any way.
The several NFL Play 60 commercials and the Target supercenter commercials that will be shown to the children are the instruments in this study. There are several different commercials promoting the NFL Play 60 using several different NFL teams and players. The first two Play 60 commercial shown will be the “NFL Play 60 Bus” commercials. Each of these features different teams. One commercial shown will feature the Atlanta Falcons and the second will feature the Carolina Panthers. The third ad shown will be the “Let Them Play 60” commercial. This particular commercial feature several players from several teams, President Obama and children playing football on the White House lawn. The fourth and final Play 60 commercial that the students will watch is titled “United Way and Play 60,” which features on player and one child. I will be showing different commercials, but they will all be NFL Play 60 commercials. I am going to mix up the commercials for reliability purposes. I want to make sure that the students aren’t seeing the same players in every commercial to ensure that they aren’t influenced based on the fact that they might have a favorite player or team. Also, the two surveys that will be given to the children are also instruments in this survey. I will be taking a quantitative approach in this study. I will be asking a closed-ended question to these children using a simple survey. I only need to measure whether the children’s behavior toward physical fitness will change or not, so I do not need descriptive, qualitative answers. A survey will help me to easily see if there are any differences in the behavior of children between the control group and the treatment group. Using the information I found in my literature review, I will use a colorful survey with animated characters on it that will draw children’s attention as opposed to doing a plain, black and white survey that the children are likely to ignore. The survey will be a Likert type scale and will ask one simple question to the children: “How many hours a week do you play outside of school?” The children will have the option of choosing 0-2 hours, 3-5 hours, 6-9 hours, or 9 more hours a week.
There are several reliability issues with this study. One problem with reliability is that children are not reliable. They children could lie about how much they play. Also, they could not read the survey and just circle a random answer, since children have a short attention span. Hopefully, the colorful survey will help to avoid this. Due to children’s short attention span, there could be another reliability issue in the fact that the children may not pay attention to the commercials. Another problem with reliability is that the survey is only asking how much the children play outside of school. It does not account for the fact that the children may have physical fitness during school hours. A problem with validity in my study is that these results are not generalizable to all children. I am only using two sixth-grade classes at one elementary school and I am also using a non-probability sample.
For my data analysis, I will be using a T-test. I will use a T-test because I am looking for differences between the behavior of the control and treatment groups. I will get the difference in the mean scores from the surveys between the two groups. I will then convert that difference number into a T-value and then look on the T-distribution scale to make sure that I have reliable results.
The survey given to the children will look like the one pictured below.
How many hours a week do you play outside of school?