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European Law Monitor newsCommission and UEFA kick off football season with joint TV campaign promoting physical activity

The European Commission and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) are launching a joint TV advertising campaign that aims to encourage European citizens to make physical activity part of their daily lives. The advert encourages viewers to get out of their armchairs and be physically active, using the slogan "Go on, get out of your armchair'. Millions of Europeans are expected to view the advert, as it will be screened free of charge during the half-time break of this season´s televised Champions League football games. This initiative comes at a time when poor diets and low levels of physical activity in Europe account for six of the seven leading risk factors for ill health in Europe. The lack of physical exercise, coupled with unbalanced diets, has turned obesity into a serious public health problem. In most EU Member States more than half of the adult population is overweight or obese. It is also estimated that almost 22 million children are overweight in the EU and each year this figure is growing by 400,000.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "Europeans are eating too much and exercising too little, which explains why more than half of European adults are overweight or obese. Through this TV advertising campaign we aim to help viewers better understand the importance of physical exercise in living healthier lives and encourage them to introduce physical activity in their daily routines."

The TV advert

The 30-second TV advert is expected to reach between 80 and 100 million viewers during each match week of the Champions League, as it will be aired free of charge in more than 40 European countries at the interval of each of this season´s 125 televised Champions League football games. This has been possible through a partnership with UEFA which has offered up the 30 seconds of airtime that it retains for social initiatives.

The advert is a product of co-operation between the Commission's Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General, the UEFA administration and the London-based Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO advertising agency. The total production cost came up to about 515,000 euro. The Commission asked the European Association of Communications Agencies to invite its member companies to make proposals to work on the project and AMV.BBDO´s submission was chosen following the presentation of a creative route. The agency provided all creative and management services to the project free of charge.

Commission actions to promote physical activity

The European Commission believes that the EU and Member States must take pro-active steps to reverse the decline in physical activity levels over the last decades. This year the Commission has adopted two White Papers in which the need for Physical Activity features prominently • The White Paper on a Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues and the White Paper on Sport.

The creation of the Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health in March '05 represented a new approach from the Commission to address the problem of rising obesity trends. The Platform aims to engage stakeholders to commit to action, such as the promotion of a healthy lifestyle through education, nutrition and physical activity actions. More details are set out in MEMO/07/334 and MEMO/07/335.

The Commission also supports a variety of different programs and initiatives promoting physical activity. For instance, it backs the City-VITAlity-Sustainability programme (CIVITAS), which aims to promote and implement sustainable, clean and efficient urban transport measures. It also supports the BYPAD-platform, which aims to improve the quality of cycling policies.

Inactivity and health

The prevalence of obesity has more than trebled in many European countries since the 1980s, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Studies show that one in three Europeans do not exercise at all in their free time, while the average European spends over five hours a day sitting down.

Child obesity is of particular concern. According to the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF), an estimated three million European schoolchildren are now obese, and some 85,000 more children become obese each year. Young people tend to retain excess weight throughout their adult lives and are more likely to become obese.

Obesity is a risk factor for many serious illnesses including heart disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Poor nutrition and insufficient exercise are among the leading causes of avoidable death in Europe, and obesity related illnesses are estimated to account for as much as 7% of total healthcare costs in the EU.
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Reproduced with the permission of the European Commission REF IP/07/1262