Kentucky Fried Tragedy

Dr Rachel Hodder
Insights Newsletter
2 June, 2017

It may not have caught your attention but New Zealand is in the grips of a tragic health disaster.

Is this a particularly deadly new strain of the flu? An Ebola outbreak? Flesh-eating bacteria?

No, this is a legal business sponsoring a sporting event. KFC have agreed to sponsor the Rugby League World Cup. A deal which a public health expert has described as a “tragedy for public health”.

You see, according to this expert, when something “inherently bad” is advertised alongside something “inherently good” the halo effect causes people to think the bad thing is actually a terrific thing.

Presumably this expert is referring to KFC as inherently bad and rugby league as inherently good. But surely that is a matter of opinion?

Sure, KFC is by no means a crucial part of a balanced diet. But what public health experts do not seem to realise is that people choose what to eat based on factors other than nutritional value alone. And I would argue with my dying breath that their Wicked Wings are indeed terrific, no matter what public health experts say.

And is rugby league really ‘inherently good’? As someone who is not a league fan, I struggle to see what is good about it at all. But to each their own.

Even still, I’m not sure why spending a couple of hours watching sport in front of the telly is something for public health experts to celebrate. And even the act of playing sport is not without its hazards. The 15,000 annual injuries from rugby league, costing ACC $16 million, could also be described as tragic, if we wanted to be melodramatic.

In any case, it is hard to believe that a bit of advertising is going to trick people into believing that Kentucky Fried Chicken is good for your health. The name alone does not exactly create imagery of health food.

The experts of course understand the more sinister corporate motive for sports sponsorship. They are apparently trying to give children a “life-long addiction to their food”.

But if that is the way it works then the solution to the obesity epidemic is simple. Take the current funding for public health research and use it to sponsor the next World Cup. A bit of sponsored advertising about healthy eating will easily trick children into a life-long addiction to spinach and brussel sprouts.

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates