In Praise of the Celebrity Soda Dis

Pear in Mind: A Blog in the Public Interest

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Source: The Telegraph

Proving the power of celebrity endorsement  – or in this case, the celebrity “dis” – Coca-Cola saw its shares plummet on Monday when Portuguese soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo removed two bottles of Coke placed in front of him at a Euro 2020 press conference and urged people to drink water. 

Ronaldo’s plug for water instead of Coke cost the soda giant $4 billion in market value immediately following his gesture, although shares have since rebounded. His stance on avoiding sugary carbonated drinks, alcohol, and other junk food is no secret. The 36-year-old is as well known for his incredible physique as his superior soccer skills – both of which he maintains through a strict exercise regimen and a clean diet.  

Ronaldo’s stance on soda contradicts that of the worldwide soccer establishment, which takes enormous sums of money from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and other sugary drink purveyors. These companies sponsor leagues, events, and celebrity athletes in order to advertise their products around the globe. (Coca-Cola is a primary sponsor of the Euro 2020 tournament.) And it’s not just soccer – many other professional sporting organizations (think NBA, NFL, MLB, International Tennis Federation, U.S. Golf Association) take buckets of money from Big Soda. The hypocrisy of promoting soda – one of the worst beverages to drink if you’re an elite athlete – is clearly lost on the professional sports world, which is focused on squeezing every last drop of profit from its sponsorships.  

And since children and teens idolize professional athletes, the professional sports world can be accused of promoting unchecked consumption of a drink that has been linked repeatedly to alarming rates of excess weight gain in children as young as two years old – which increases their risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and fatty liver disease as they grow.  

Soda promotion may also be linked to health disparities among lower-income communities and communities of color, which have some of the highest rates of soda and sugary drink consumption in the United States and are disproportionately targeted by soda company marketing. 

Ronaldo’s stance of publicly avoiding soda and promoting water is refreshing. If only other professional athletes and sporting organizations would stop promoting soda and call out these beverages for what they really are – disease-promoting, non-nutritious drinks that most serious professional athletes avoid like the plague.  

After all, following the press conference, a Coke-free Ronaldo went on to nab 2 goals in Portugal’s 3-0 victory over Hungary. 

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