It is a guarantee that while watching television, a soda commercial featuring a celebrity, musician or athlete will run at least once. In fact, for many celebrities, having their likeness appear in soda commercials symbolizes the attainment of world-wide fame. Think of the Michael Jackson and Beyonce Pepsi commercials, or Coca-Cola’s commercials featuring Michael Jordan, and more recently athletes from the 2012 London Olympics.

The TV medium is an excellent avenue to advertise products since it reaches a large audience, especially during attention-catching events like the Superbowl and the Olympics. Viewers are subjected to these commercials, of course with the choice to switch the channel if they’d like. The topic of celebrity endorsed soda commercials, or any kind of advertising, is relevant today in discussing whether marketing truly influences consumers’ purchases.

Discussions over the proposed sugar beverage in Richmond bring this issue to light. On the one hand, the desired result is that new taxes will curb the diabetes epidemic raging in communities of color. Opponents argue that such a tax affects poor people unfairly, and even so, people should be free to make their own decisions. But how valid is that line of reasoning if soda companies on a daily basis out-advertise local tax initiatives through media?

Soda commercials are the norm. Soda is part of American culture, crossing over to pop culture so seamlessly that its influence is hard to ignore. Right now, there is no level playing field concerning those seeking to influence the debate for and against soda. Soda is terrible for health, that much is known. But the influence of beverage companies, with their strategy of saturating media and community with commercials and celebrity endorsements, is so widespread that its hard to imagine commercials speaking on the health defects of soda as having the same reach.

Yet, the playing field needs to be leveled. So … which celebrities, athletes and musicians would sign up for a commercial advertising water instead of soda? Who will be the spokesperson for health?

Edgardo Cervano-Soto is a resident of San Pablo and a regular contributor to Richmond Pulse.