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Overweight Kids in Advertisements: What’s Your Opinion?

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Kudos to 12-year-old Nathan Sorrell. You may have seen him during the Olympics. He wasn’t in the Olympics; he was advertised during the Olympic games.

Nathan is a 5’3”, 200-pound 12-year-old who appeared in an ad for Nike where he is seen jogging down a lonely country road. While he runs, a voice over tells viewers to “find their inspiration.” Seeing Nathan jogging is indeed inspiring, and the image is what many Americans need.

The problem for Nathan is that he has received a lot of national attention and not all of it has been complimentary. While some viewers applaud him for putting himself out there, others have criticized Nike for exploitation, and Nathan has received personal criticism and humiliation. The question is, was it right for Nike to put him on the air or was it a simple matter of using him to get attention for their shoes?

When his mother was interviewed on The Today Show, she seemed surprised by the negative attention, saying that she didn’t realize that it would come. Really? You put your overweight son in an advertisement during the Olympics showcasing highly sculpted young bodies and don’t expect viewers to criticize him? When Nathan was asked how he has handled the criticism, he said in extraordinarily mature fashion, that he has only been motivated more by it. Good for him.

As a pediatrician, I am thrilled to see a young man like Nathan, and I think that the country needs to see his courage, demeanor, and positive spirit. In spite of those ready to chew him up and spit him out, he’s working to better himself and to overcome his own demons. That takes tremendous courage. How many 12-year-old boys can use humiliation as a source of motivation? Not many. I wonder if many medal-winning Olympians used the same as motivation to succeed. For them, however, humiliation was private, and there’s a big difference.

Nike knew exactly what they were doing and didn’t care a lick about Nathan (or any overweight 12-year-old). They exploited him because their goal is to do one thing: sell expensive shoes. Should they have used him in the ad? Absolutely not. He’s a kid, and kids need to be protected from public humiliation, even if it motivates them to do good for themselves.

We have a very serious issue with obesity in kids, and we need to hit it head on. Ironically enough, we have it because kids are used as targets of aggressive marketing of fast food, junk foods, and “super-sized” foods. Now we use those same kids to campaign to get out of those problems? Personally, I think that’s perfect marketing strategy.

There’s only one problem—it hurts our kids, and we need to speak out for them.

Using kids to make money is never OK.

That’s my opinion. What do you think?

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