I grew up in Spain, in a place where Three Wise Men bring presents to children who have been good throughout the year. Since I live in Belgium, I am also celebrating the arrival of Saint Nicholas, aka Sinterklaas (in Dutch). This tradition is celebrated annually with the distribution of gifts for children the night before Saint Nicholas Day on December 6th. This Day is celebrated in many Central and Eastern European countries.
Sinterklaas is an old and majestic man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape, dons a red mitre and ruby ring and holds a gold-coloured crosier. He traditionally rides a white horse. Sinterklaas carries a big, red book, in which is written whether each child has been good or naughty in the past year.
In the days between his arrival and 6 December, Sinterklaas also visits schools, hospitals and markets. This year, a new version of Sinterklaas came to my kids’ school: “Mc Sinterklaas”! I was shocked when I discovered this little hat in my 5-years old kid schoolbag. Mc Donald’s managed to get infiltrated into one of the most awaited and loved tradition of children in Belgium. What a clever way to enter into kids’ hearts. Is McDonald’s using schools to turn children into lifelong customers of its junk food brand? I find it shocking that McDonald’s is using this cultural tradition as an opportunity to market young children.
Our school is putting much attention on educating children about responsible choices and healthy food, therefore I cannot understand why they are endorsing this action. Who decided that it was a good idea to distribute little “Mc Sinterklaas hats” among young children? Is the school receiving any compensation for this kind of marketing? Or are they just naïve? Too many questions need to be answered.
In recent years, the food and beverage industry in the US has viewed children and adolescents as a major market force. As a result, children and adolescents are now the target of intense and specialized food marketing and advertising efforts. Food marketers are interested in youth as consumers because of their spending power, their purchasing influence, and as future adult consumers. Multiple techniques and channels are used to reach youth, beginning when they are toddlers, to foster brand-building and influence food product purchase behavior. These food marketing channels include television advertising, in-school marketing, product placements, kids clubs, the Internet, toys and products with brand logos, and youth-targeted promotions, such as cross-selling and tie-ins. Foods marketed to children are predominantly high in sugar and fat, and as such are inconsistent with national dietary recommendations. Source