Children Paid $400 To Be Walking Advertisements For Weetabix

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One of the perks of being in the media or the arts – or simply by being an innately ‘cool’ person – is the opportunity to be a “brand ambassador” for a variety of products ranging from $300 jeans to low-fat potato chips. For example, one friend of mine who works in the not-for-profit sector once received thousands of dollars worth of yoga wear and all she had to do was wear it to the gym if she wanted to (clearly, she’s what executives call an “influencer”). It’s a sweet deal for all involved – but what happens when these so-called influencers are little children?

That’s what’s been in happening in England, where a the popular cereal brand Weetabix is paying kids to wear their logo. TODAY Moms reports that the company recently sponsored 15 kids from around England who have busy extra-curricular schedules. They’re being paid around US$400 to wear special Weetabix-emblazoned clothing on their busiest days of the week. In other words, they’re walking advertisements.

My own son recently donned a softball uniform with the Tim Hortons‘ logo on the back. That’s standard in most countries, however, where companies will sponsor little league teams to help offset expenses. In these instances, the company is sponsoring entire teams in exchange for some subtle PR. In the Weetabix scenario, however, marketers are specifically hand-picking  the “cool kids” (or whatever you want to call them). And, let’s face it, it’s not exactly subtle (if I saw an eight-year-old wandering around in a Weetabix t-shirt I’d think that was weird – unless it was one of those hipster ironic ones).

Granted, I essentially spend money for my child to wear branded clothing (Puma, Nike and so on) – and the thought of someone paying him to wear those same brands is actually quite appealing. Still, something about this Weetabix setup doesn’t sit right with me. What do you think? Does it bring up any ethical issues or, in 2001, is this just something we should all embrace?