First, Pepsi signed a $50 million deal with Beyonce to pump up their brand. Now, Taylor Swift is shilling for Diet Coke. Announced over the weekend (via a video on Taylor Swift’s YouTube channel claiming the drink as one of her “great loves”), the deal is expected to be more than a few 30-second commercial spots. So now both brands are going to try their hardest to make fans believe that drinking carbonated sugary drinks is an essential part of their favorite celebrities’ lifestyle. It might sound like a joke to you and me, but I’m not sure the stars’ younger fans are so discerning. And here we thought Ronald McDonald was bad.
When Pepsi announced their endorsement deal with Beyonce, it sparked a lot of discussion about whether celebrities are obligated to be concerned about their fans’ health. Most of us thought it was incredulous that Beyonce–who’s been known to go on detox diets like the master cleanse and work with trainers to maintain her weight–would be promoting Pepsi. But worse than the hypocrisy of her deal was the fact that she’d be raking in so much dough for telling people to consume stuff that’s terrible for their health.
Yoni Freedhoff, a concerned parent who also happens to be a doctor and blogger, wrote an open letter to the star asking why she hates his children. The question sounds extreme, but his letter puts her endorsement deal into perspective:
Beyoncé I’m sure you’re aware that these days the world isn’t the healthiest of places, and that the consumption of huge amounts of empty and often sugary calories is contributing to the burden of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity – and here I’m not even talking about adults. With truly terrifying regularity, kids under the age of 10 are being diagnosed with what was once referred to as “adult-onset” diabetes. Teens are having heart attacks. In your own lifetime, childhood obesity rates have tripled. You might even be aware that in North America, teen girls get 15% of their daily calories from soft drinks. Why would you want to perpetuate that tragedy? In fact I’m virtually positive you’re aware of all that given your involvement with Let’s Move. So I have to ask: Is your star fading? Did you make some terrible investments? Do you think sugared soda’s not as bad as the medical community makes it out to be?
I can’t fathom why a star as successful as you would want your own wagon and brand selling Pepsi. While I appreciate that you owe my little girls nothing, I would have hoped that someone with your star power wouldn’t need or want to sell children sugar water.
Taylor Swift didn’t write a whole song about Let’s Move, and her deal is all about a calorie-free drink. But she’s not off the hook, by a long shot.
To start, diet drinks are just as unhealthy, if not worse than regular soda. Studies have linked diet sodas to stroke and a higher risk of heart attacks, and artificial sweeteners can still spike blood sugar levels. Calorie-free is far from synonymous with healthy.
And while Swift hasn’t been a big spokesperson against childhood obesity, the young country music singer achieved pop star status by appealing to a young, teen audience. Beyonce isn’t without a massive following of young girls, but Swift is explicitly appeals to that demographic (even her songs are explicitly about teen and young adult themes). And now, she’s asking them all to start drinking aspartame, phosphoric acid, caffeine, and artificial coloring.
Swift is already urging fans to check out Diet Coke’s Facebook page for “behind the stage” looks at their partnership, and promised “lots of fun stuff” to come. She may not be bribing children with Happy Meal Toys, but her role in promoting unhealthy products among kids isn’t much different from Ronald McDonald, whose role in childhood obesity prompted to many to wonder if he was the new Joe Camel. Swift may not be jamming cigarettes between her tween fans’ fingers, but she’s also not innocently promoting a benign product amongst educated, discerning adults.
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