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J Health Commun. 2008 Mar;13(2):169-80. doi: 10.1080/10810730701854086.

Getting to know the competition: a content analysis of publicly and corporate funded physical activity advertisements.

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  • 1Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Alberta, Canada.


The purpose of this research was to conduct a content analysis of physical activity advertisements in an effort to determine which advertisements were more likely to include features that may attract and maintain attention levels. Fifty-seven advertisements were collected from top circulation Canadian magazines. The advertisements ranged from publicly funded health promotion pieces to corporate sponsored advertisements using physical activity to sell a product. Advertisements were examined for textual and pictorial factors thought to increase attention allocated to advertising of this nature. Only two public health advertisements were found, and the majority of advertisements (57.9%) were from commercial advertisers using physical activity images to sell products or to encourage brand recognition. The advertisements originating with the private sector tended to possess most of the characteristics thought to attract the attention of readers. Once this attention was gained, however, most of these advertisements failed to highlight the benefits of physical activity. As a result, the positive effect of these advertisements may have been compromised. Public health advertisements were so infrequent that we could not compare their characteristics with those originating with the private sector. The characteristics with those we did find were inconsistent with those thought to attract and maintain attention levels. Results are discussed in terms of potential implications for promoting physical activity.

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