Skip to main content
Stay updated

Reducing Junk Food in Sport Project: Building the Business Case

Resources and Downloads
Reducing-Junk-Food-in-Sport-Project-Building-the-Business-Case-725x960 (1)

The purpose of Reducing Junk Food in Sport: Building the Business Case project is to build the business case for junk food free sponsorship in sport. The project will inform a longer term investment and focus for VicHealth in tackling junk food in sport.


 For the purpose of this project and Expression Of Interest, the following definitions have been used:

“Sporting organisations” is an all-inclusive term which includes: National Sporting Organisations, State Sporting Associations, Elite Teams and local community sportings clubs/associations.

“Sponsorship” is defined as the purchase of rights or beneftis, including naming rights, delivered through association with the sponsored organisation’s name, products, services or activities. The rights or benefits typically relate to the sponsor’s reputiation management or communitcation objectives1. Sponsorship does not include grants, which are money, goods or other benefits provided to the recipient for a specific purpose, but with no expectations of attaining the rights and benefits of the kind outlined above.

 “Junk food” is used as a collective term referring to unhealthy foods and drinks that are high in added sugar, salt, and/or saturated fat and low in essential nutrients. This includes sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) such as soft drinks and sports drinks. The Australian Dietary Guidelines refers to these food and drinks as ‘discretionary foods’2. The Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices Guidelines categorise junk food and drinks as ‘red foods’ as per a traffic light system3.


VicHealth’s vision is for all sporting organisations to adopt a junk food free sponsorship policy and we want to see Victoria leading this change in Australia. We also know this is a huge task. Junk food sponsorship of Victorian sport was estimated at approximately $27million in 20164, and high profile relationships between junk food companies and elite sports are the status quo. But with childhood obesity rates rising and unhealthy diets a key risk factor for poor health, this is an area that demands change to make sport a healthy environment for all Victorians, particularly children.

On average, one third of children’s energy intake comes from junk food and children and young people are among the highest consumers of SSBs5.

There is increasing community, media and government concern regarding the high prevalence of junk food sponsorship at all levels of Australian sport6. There are high rates of participation of children in organised sports in Australia7, and hence exposure to the range of advertising and promotional messages as part of sport sponsorships. Adding to this is the high level of exposure through spectating on TV or at sporting facilities.   

Promotion of junk food through sport is concerning because this exposure to and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks influences food preferences and perceptions, particularly of children and youth8, 9. The World Health Organisation has recognised the importance of protecting children from marketing of unhealthy foods and has developed a set of recommendations which calls for reducing children’s exposure10. Ongoing sponsorship of children’s sport by junk food companies undermines health promotion activities and the efforts of schools and parents to encourage healthy lifestyles.

This project will continue to build the momentum for change, by developing the business case for junk food free sponsorship and highlighting those sporting organisations who are leading the way. We want to demonstrate the many benefits of not accepting junk food sponsorship to provide evidence to support other sporting organisations to shift away from unhealthy sponsorships. This supports our current work of making healthy food and drinks choices easy and readily available across all levels of sport. 


Our project objectives

VicHealth, in partnership with LaTrobe University Centre for Sport and Social Impact, want to work with three sporting organisations who operate in Victoria and who do not currently accept sponsorship from junk food companies.  

With each sporting organisation, the aim is to collect information about the rationale, process, benefits and challenges experienced by adopting a junk food free sponsorship policy, through:

  • Interviews with key decision makers and stakeholders, e.g. board/commit ee members, executive team, partnership managers, others
  • Surveys with members/participants/officials/investors/supporters

The type of information we are seeking from sporting organisations through this project will include: 

  1. Why do sporting organisaitons develop junk food free sponsorship policies? What are the drivers in deciding on a sponsor, and in particular for not accepting junk food sponsors?  How are sponsors assessed for suitability?
  2. What is the process or steps involved in sporting organisations developing junk food free sponsorship policies?
  3. What are the specific pressures/challenges for sports in accepting/not accepting junk food sponsors?
  4. What are the benefits and costs (e.g. economic, reputational) associated with not accepting junk food sponsorship?
  5. What are the alternative sponsors, sponsorship arrangements and how are these found?



The output from this project will be three case studies demonstrating the process, feasibility, challenges and benefits of junk food free sponsorship in sports, and a summary business case that pulls together the key themes from the project. These will be jointly developed with the three sporting organisations.

We understand the confidential and potentially sensitive nature of the information we wish to collect in this project. Communicating the project outcomes will be done in partnership with and with permission from the participating sporting organisations.

LaTrobe University will be collecting all data with the sporting organisations.

VicHealth will lead on the design and publication of the case studies and public reporting, in partnership with the sporting organisations and LaTrobe University.




VicHealth funding and support


Up to $20,000 (excluding GST) is available to each of the three sports organisations to support participation in this project. It is anticipated that funding will reimburse staff/volunteer time and cover any administrative costs, e.g. through administering member surveys etc.

It is expected that participating organisations will identify a key contact person to work with VicHealth and the research team. This person will need to identify and recruit appropriate participants from the organisation for interviews and surveys.



Being involved in other ways

We want to hear the range of views and perspectives about junk food sponsorship of sports. Therefore, as part of the project, we are conducting a separate online Concept Mapping process. We are firstly asking for people involved in making sponsorship decisions for Victorian-based sporting organisations to participate in a brainstorming process to explore the barriers to rejecting junk food sponsorships. This is a great opportunity for sporting organisations to have your say regardless of your current sponsorship partners, arrangements or policy. Please complete the brainstorming of ideas by Friday 8 December via the following link:




1 Victorian Government Departments, Bodies and Entities 2013, Victorian Government Sponsorship Policy, Victorian Government, Melbourne.
2 National Health and Medical Research Council 2013, Eat for health - Australian Dietary Guidelines, Australian Government, viewed 18 September 2017,
3 Department of Health and Human Services 2017, Healthy choices: food and drinks classification guide, Victorian Government, Melbourne.
4 VicHealth commissioned research. Unpublished.
5 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – food and nutrients 2011 -2012. Australian Government, Canberra.
6 VicHealth Community Attitudes Surveys. Unpublished
7 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, Children’s Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia, Apr 2012. Australian Government, Canberra.
8 Kelly B, Baur LA, Bauman AE, King L, Chapman K, Smith BJ 2011, ‘”Food company sponsors are kind, generous and cool”: (Mis)conceptions of junior sports players’ International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity 8:95
9 United Nations 2012, Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, General Assembly resolution 66/216 September 2011.
10 World Health Organization. Set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2010.

Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
VicHealth acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land. We pay our respects to all Elders past, present and future.
This website may contain images, names and voices of deceased people.

VicHealth acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.