NIHR Obesity Policy Research Unit at UCL


The impact on dietary outcomes of licensed and brand equity characters in marketing unhealthy foods


The impact on dietary outcomes of licensed and brand equity characters in marketing unhealthy foods to children: A systematic review and meta-analysis


The aim of this review was to quantify the impact of both licensed and brand equity characters on children’s dietary outcomes given that existing regulations often differentiates between these character types.


The majority of food marketing is for HFSS products, some of which is directly targeted at children. Advertising increases short-term consumption, preference for, and purchase intention of HFSS products by children. The impact on consumption can accumulate, as small excesses in daily energy intake can contribute to overweight and obesity over time. Advertising of HFSS food and drinks is high on the public health and policy agenda; the use characters in marketing has been identified as a persuasive technique.


We systematically searched eight interdisciplinary databases and included studies from 2009 onwards, including all countries and languages. Participants were children under 16 years, exposure was marketing for HFSS product with a character and the outcomes were dietary consumption, preference or purchasing behaviours of HFSS products. Data allowed for meta-analysis of taste preferences.


December 2021