Jamie Oliver and child obesity
At Onalytica we recently completed an analysis of who is influential in the debate on child obesity in the United Kingdom.
One of the objectives of the analysis was to determine if those companies who have corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives relating to child obesity are getting value for money: Are they being considered relevant authorities in the debate on child obesity and do they have influence over and above what one might expect given their popularity?
One of the more intriguing results of the analysis is that it quantifies the influence and popularity of Jamie Oliver, a British celebrity-chef, on this issue.
Combining Mr. Oliver’s celebrity status with the noble cause of improving the diet of British school children has been a hit with popular media. So while there is general consensus that he has succeeded in raising the public awareness on the issue, the magnitude of his actual influence is a matter of often heated debate. Popularity vs. influence
While it is easy to establish the popularity of a person, organisation or institution (hereafter collectively referred to as “stakeholders”), it is more complex to determine the influence.
To measure a stakeholder’s popularity on a particular issue all one has to do is to count the number of other stakeholders who references said stakeholder in the appropriate context. In doing so we regard all stakeholders as equally important; a “vote” carries the same weight no matter who gives it.
Not so when it comes to influence. Here the weight of a stakeholder’s “vote” on how influential another stakeholder is, is determined by the “voting” stakeholder’s own influence, whose influence again is determined by the influence of those who vote for him or her and so on, and so on..
So to put it short; popularity is about how many
listens to you whereas influence is more about who
listens to you. The results
Table 1 shows the 50 most influential stakeholders of the debate on child obesity in the United Kingdom.
The NHS is in a league of their own followed by The World Health Organisation (WHO), Department of Health, The European Union and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Mr. Oliver’s relative influence is 4.74, roughly equivalent to the influence Sport England and British Nutrition Foundation. His influence on this issue is not only greater than of the Guardian, Department for Culture, Media and Sports, 10 Downing Street but also somewhat greater than the influence of Tesco and Coca-Cola Company.
Because the scale in Table 1 is linear we can see that Mr. Oliver’s influence is roughly half of the BBC’s influence on this issue.
Table 2 (below), on the other hand, shows the 50 most popular stakeholders of this issue. (The popularity scale is relative and has been normalised to match the influence scale, but beware, it’s not possible to compare the numbers directly between the Tables 1 and 2).
Table 2 shows that NHS is also the most popular stakeholder of the issue. In fact many of those who are at the top of Table 1 have good positions in Table 2. However, if we compare Tables 1 and 2 closely we will see that the order and position of many of the stakeholders who are listed in both tables are somewhat different.
The relationship between popularity and influence is not linear and can differ quite a bit depending on the issue analysed. But it is possible to approximate a formula that quite elegantly transforms popularity (of a particular issue) into influence.
This enables us to calculate what kind of influence we should expect a stakeholder to have given their popularity. This further enables us to calculate who is more influential than their popularity should warrant and vice versa.
Table 3 (below) shows the details.
In Table 3 “Popularity” refers to the relative popularity of the stakeholder as listed in Table 2. “Expected Influence” refers to the influence that we should “expect” from the given popularity. “Actual influence” refers to the correctly measured influence as listed in Table 1. Finally “Under- Influence” refers to how much less influence the stakeholder has compared to what we should expect.
From Table 3 we can see that BBC’s under-influence is 28%. So the BBC is then quite a bit more popular than they are influential when it comes to child obesity. This is not surprising when we examine the reasons behind why someone may be under-influential.
A stakeholder is typically under-influential for at least one of the following two reasons: Either those who are influenced by the stakeholder with under-influence have less than average influence, and/or those who are influenced by the stakeholder with under-influence are influenced by many other stakeholders.
Another way to look at under-influence is as a measure of “over-popularity”. It is equally fair to say that the BBC is 28% more popular on this issue than they are influential. It is hardly surprising that BBC is more popular than influential as they have a huge public service obligation that requires them to be popular.
Table 3 basically shows who has been successful in establishing themselves as popular stakeholders on the issue of child obesity. The keyword here is “successful” because appearing in Table 3 means that you get more coverage than your influence should warrant.
We can see that Mr. Oliver’s under-influence/over-popularity is 9%. This may come as a surprise to those who thought he was only being listened to by the celebrity media and that he had little or no real impact. If that was the case his under-influence would have been far greater.
So to summarise, Mr. Oliver has real influence and much more so than many other high profile stakeholders. Also, Mr. Oliver is being listened to by stakeholders with real influence on this issue, not just the celebrity magazines – who may have a lot of influence on fashion and glamour but limited influence on the issue of child obesity.
Last week I mentioned this upcoming analysis to a leader of some of NHS’s mental health initiatives. When I mentioned that Mr. Oliver does have real influence and impact on this issue she replied “it’s what I have always said – we need a Jamie Oliver to focus on mental health”. It looks like she was right.
Table 4 (below): List of abbreviations
(C) Onalytica 2006