Sponsorship by manufacturers of unhealthy food can undermine the health promoting goals of sport. This study aimed to describe Australian children's exposure to organised sport, and compare time spent in specific sports with patterns of sponsorship of children's sport identified in previous studies.
Cross-sectional survey on children's sport participation collected by proxy report using a random-digit-dialling survey of 3416 parents.
Data from the 2009/10 Australian Sports Commission's Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey were used to calculate weekly total person-time exposure to sports for Australian children, as a product of median weekly exposure (minutes) and the number of children participating. Exposures for children in NSW were calculated based on population distribution. Based on a previous survey of sport clubs in NSW, cumulative weekly exposure to food/beverage sponsorship at sports clubs was estimated for children living in NSW.
77.3% of Australian children aged 5–14 participated in organised sport. In NSW, weekly total person-time exposure for children was highest for outdoor soccer (91,200 children × median frequency of 2 sessions per week of 1 h duration = 182,400 h/week). Considering rates of sponsorship at different sports, children would be exposed to food/beverage sponsorship to the greatest extent for rugby league and outdoor cricket.
Children's high frequency of participation in organised sport and time spent engaging in these activities highlights the potentially huge reach of food/beverage sponsorship promotions. Policy interventions to limit children's exposure to this sponsorship should target those sports that have both the highest levels of children's participation and food/beverage sponsorship arrangements.