If Victor Cruz Tells Us to Eat Our Veggies, Will Kids Listen?

Apr 8, 2015, 9:30 AM, Posted by John R. Lumpkin

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is proud to be a part of the new FNV campaign, using lessons from the marketing industry to make the healthy choice the easy and cool choice by promoting fruits and vegetables.

As my colleague Alonzo Plough recently pointed out, food and beverage marketing to kids is a big deal. Companies spend billions of dollars a year on advertising to reach young people everywhere they are: watching TV, playing digital games and using apps, and connecting to friends and family on social media―the ways to catch their attention seem to grow day by day.

Companies spend billions of dollars because marketing works. Ads can influence the foods and beverages children prefer, purchase, and consume. Even parents can have a hard time seeing through marketing.

That’s why I’m so excited about the launch of FNV.

I was recently at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit where FNV (which stands for fruits and vegetables) was unveiled—a campaign to put the same promotional muscle behind fruits and veggies as other companies put behind soda, candy, and potato chips.

This video sums it up. New York Giants’ Victor Cruz (a New Jersey native, I might add) is all for apples and tomatoes. Nick Jonas is pushing plums. And Jessica Alba is crazy over beets. All for #TeamFNV. There will be billboards, and hats, and t-shirts. And edgy messages designed to appeal to tweens’ and teens’ instincts to challenge authority and convention.

This reflects a real turning point as we realize that we must apply the best and most creative strategies from the advertising and marketing world to healthier choices. The ads for carrots should be more enticing than the ads for cookies and candy bars. Yes, root for carrots!

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is excited to be supporting both the initial launch and an evaluation of FNV’s impact. The campaign is launching nationally and later this spring rolling out in Fresno, California, and Hampton Roads, Virginia, two markets where obesity rates remain high and comprehensive approaches to reversing the epidemic are needed.

Making healthy foods and beverages the affordable, available, and desired choice in all neighborhoods and communities is part of RWJF’s commitment to helping all kids grow up at a healthy weight, no matter who they are or where they live. And it’s absolutely essential to building a Culture of Health. Giving voice to consumer demand for healthy alternatives is a critical part of that process.

Because companies respond to consumer demand. Last month, Burger King became the third of the big three burger chains to take soda off its kid’s menus. Pretty soon, when a parent takes their son or daughter into a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or Burger King, they’ll see milk, juice, or water on the menu, not soda. That’s another great example of what can happen when we start to demand healthier choices for ourselves and our families.

I was thinking of FNV and these other recent market shifts because this week is National Public Health Week, and today’s theme is “Building Momentum.” I look around and I see a lot of momentum. Soda is leaving kids’ menus, calories are coming off of store shelves, and the healthy choice is getting the potent marketing push. I’m excited about what’s to come.

John Lumpkin, MD, MPH, is senior vice president and director, targeted teams for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Read his full bio.