Keywords

1. Food Marketing Twitch
2. Influencer Advertising
3. Adolescent Nutrition
4. HFSS Products Promotion
5. Digital Food Cues

Article

In today’s burgeoning world of eSports and video game streaming, the landscape of digital marketing is undergoing rapid transformation. A cutting-edge study, recently published in the scientific journal ‘Appetite’, illuminates the prevalent and potentially influential role of food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing within the realm of Fortnite streaming on Twitch. This research represents a significant advancement in our understanding of the intersection between digital media consumption and dietary behaviors, particularly among adolescents.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Rebecca R. Evans from the Department of Psychology at the University of Liverpool, provides a comprehensive content analysis of food marketing cues integrated within 52 hours of live-streaming content that emanated from influential Fortnite gamers on Twitch. The time frame examined spans from October 2020 to September 2021, capturing a considerable snapshot of marketing practices likely targeted at younger audiences.

The methodology employed was meticulous, employing the World Health Organization (WHO) protocol and the UK Nutrient Profile Model to catalogue and assess the frequency, nature, and potency of food cues, classifying them based on healthfulness and presentation techniques. This included differentiating high in fats, sugar, and salt (HFSS) items from healthier options. The findings offer a stark representation of marketing strategies in digital spaces frequented by adolescents.

The research revealed that amongst the 133 recorded food cues, at an average of 2.56 per hour of streaming content, a staggering 70.7% prominently featured HFSS items, with energy drinks taking the lead at 62.4%. Notably, these cues were overwhelmingly branded (80.5%) and often appeared in the form of product placement or repetitive imagery loops.

The nuances of influencer behavior found within the streams draw attention to contrasting dietary actions in real time. Influencers were significantly more likely to consume healthy items on stream, with an 88.5% likelihood compared to a mere 33.4% for HFSS food products. Adding to this complexity, each food cue was displayed for an average of over 20 minutes per hour, embedding these products within the gaming experience.

In a digital arena where disclosure is key to transparency, it is concerning that only 2.3% of the documented food cues came alongside an advertising disclosure, raising questions about the awareness of sponsorship or commercial intent amongst viewers, particularly impressionable adolescents.

These findings, meticulously detailed in the DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2024.107207, have profound implications. They suggest an urgent need for updated digital marketing policies that better protect young consumers from subtle yet powerful advertising tactics. The publication credits not only lead author Evans but also researchers Paul P. Christiansen, Travis T. Masterson, Georgia G. Barlow, and Emma E. Boyland—a team whose expertise adds weight to the study’s call for policy introspection.

Above all, the study amplifies the conversation on how modern advertising has blurred the lines between entertainment and promotion. It elucidates the pressing matter of digital advertising’s reach and its potential effects on the food preferences and nutritional health of adolescents—an age group particularly susceptible to external influences.

This landmark investigation is rightly housed in ‘Appetite’, a scholarly journal focused on research relating to eating and drinking, and its findings must now serve as a clarion call for stakeholders in digital media, public health, and regulatory frameworks to evaluate and adapt to the evolving challenges of food and beverage marketing in the digital age.

The engagement with this topic resonates well beyond academia. Given the popularity of platforms like Twitch—which boasts millions of daily viewers, a significant portion of whom are adolescents—there is substantial public interest in understanding and responding to the way food is marketed in such spaces. This interest justifies critical engagement by parents, educators, and policymakers alike.

In a world where digital platforms have become integral to youth culture, elucidating and addressing how food marketing tactics may shape dietary habits and preferences is not just a matter of academic inquiry but a societal imperative. This study serves as a stepping stone towards ensuring that the dietary health of future generations rests on informed choices, rather than subliminal marketing strategies.

The implications of this research are multifold. It sheds light on the current state of regulation surrounding digital advertisement disclosures, which appears to be trailing behind the innovative methods by which advertisers are reaching young audiences. Additionally, the study’s findings stress the importance of empowering children and adolescents with media literacy skills to critically engage with the content they consume.

Lastly, the research contributes to the ongoing discussion around the health impact of HFSS products and the ethical considerations involved in their promotion. The evidence provided through this thorough content analysis supports the need for a more robust regulatory approach to digital food marketing, to safeguard the well-being of vulnerable populations.

References

1. Evans, R. R., Christiansen, P. P., Masterson, T. T., Barlow, G. G., & Boyland, E. E. (2024). Food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing via fortnite streamers on twitch: A content analysis. Appetite, 107207. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2024.107207

2. World Health Organization. (2016). Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives. Children’s rights, evidence of impact, methodological challenges, regulatory options and policy implications for the WHO European Region.

3. Harris, J. L., Sarda, V., Schwartz, M. B., & Brownell, K. D. (2013). Redefining “child-directed advertising” to reduce unhealthy television food advertising. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(4), 358-364.

4. Boyland, E. J., & Halford, J. C. G. (2013). Television advertising and branding: Effects on eating behaviour and food preferences in children. Appetite, 62, 236-241.

5. Ofcom. (2020). Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2020/21. Ofcom.

The completion of this study and its subsequent publication is an essential step forward for all concerned with the intersection of youth media consumption, nutritional health, and digital advertising. As we continue to chart the digital landscapes our youth navigate, studies like this provide the compass by which we may steer toward a future of informed consumption and healthier lifestyles.