The Dangers of Energy Drink Sponsorship in Esports

The relationship between esports and energy drinks has existed as long as the sport itself. Esports are organized video game competitions (Jenny et al., 2017). Just this past weekend I was watching a Super SmashSonic the Hedgehog Bros. Ultimate tournament that was sponsored by Red Bull. This, however, is not a strange occurrence in the esport community. For example, energy drink company “GFUEL” and the massively popular esports team “FaZe Clan” have been in a partnership since 2012 (Duran, 2021). After a decade of being the ‘official energy drink of esports’, GFUEL has found competition from not only long standing pillars of the energy drink industry like Red Bull and Monster, but also new companies such as Ghost and Respawn. These brands use gaming and streaming influencers (e.g., “Ninja”) to push unhealthy amounts of caffeine and sugar onto the consumers within the esports industry.

The allure of energy drinks within the esports community is likely the perceived idea by consumers that these products will increase esports player focus and performance. By sponsoring streamers and professional gamers touting the highest scores and top rankings in all of the most popular games, companies are able to showcase their product for millions of people falling directly into their target audience. The power of gaming influencers is strong, as 23% of men aged 18 to 34 years old follow at least one gaming influencer (YouGov, 2021). Coupling that with the amount of esports influences with energy drink sponsorships, one can imagine the scope of energy drinks within the esports industry.

When looking at the advertising done on these cans of energy drink, it is hard to think that it is NOT marketed towards children. Using common cartoon and video game characters such as GFUEL with “Sonic the Hedgehog” (e.g., on these cans), children immediately recognize these figures and assume the product was made for them. This sets a dangerous precedent for an industry that relies so heavily on the involvement of people under the age of 18.

According to Harvard University:

In the U.S., adults consume an average of 135 mg of caffeine daily, or the amount in 1.5 cups of coffee (1 cup = 8 ounces). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 400 milligrams (about 4 cups brewed coffee) a safe amount of caffeine for healthy adults to consume daily

Harvard T. H. Chan, 2020, para. 6.

That means that a 16 fluid ounce can of GFUEL, which contains 300mg of caffeine, accounts for almost all of the recommended daily amount. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (as cited by Harvard T. H. Chan, 2020), children under 12 years old should NOT consume any beverages or food that contain caffeine, and adolescents ages 12 years or older should not exceed 100 mg of caffeine per day. This means that a single 16 ounce can of GFUEL contains 3 times the daily recommended amount for the latter age group, which is often their target market. Too much caffeine intake is synonymous with symptoms such as rapid heart rate, shaking, and headaches, with severe cases even leading to heart attack (National Library of Medicine, 2021).

As adults and children become exposed to the exponentially growing field of esports and gaming, more and more people also become exposed to these high-caffeine energy drink brands. Thus, it is important for health educators to call attention these potentially dangerous sponsorships through gaming influencers and have discussions with children surrounding these health adverse products. Esports can be a way to capture the attention of today’s younger generation, but must be done to promote the sport through healthier brands.

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Christian Durban, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com

Christian Durban is a student in Dr. Seth Jenny’s ERS 304 (Current Issues in Esports Health and Society) course at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

Pair this post with the following:

Student Video Samples from Online Health Education, Physical Education, and Sport Coaching Courses by Dr. Seth E. Jenny

Health-related App Analysis Assignment through the Lens of Behavior Change Theories by Dr. Seth E. Jenny

Note:

References

National Library of Medicine. (2021, September 8). MedlinePlus: Caffeine. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, https://medlineplus.gov/caffeine.html

Harvard T. H. Chan. (2020, November 12). The Nutrition Source: Caffeine. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine

Duran, H. B. (2021, November 11). A Guide to: Energy Drinks in Esports. Esports Insider. https://esportsinsider.com/2020/12/energy-drinks-esports-guide

Jenny, S., Manning, R. D., Keiper, M. C., & Olrich, T. W. (2017). Virtual(ly) Athletes: Where Esports Fit within the Definition of “Sport”. Quest, 69(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2016.1144517 “Sonic’s Peach Rings Cans.” G FUEL, https://gfuel.com/products/sonic-peach-rings-cans

Weiss, Geoff. “Ninja Is Getting His Face on a Red Bull Can.” Tubefilter, 28 Mar. 2019, https://www.tubefilter.com/2019/03/27/ninja-gets-his-own-red-bull-can

YouGov. (2021, October 18). Game-Changers: The Power of Gaming Influencers. YouGov. https://business.yougov.com/content/38826-international-gaming-report-2021

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