#Sponseredathlete: the marketing of image and performance enhancing drugs on Facebook and Instagram

Nick Gibbs*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article sets out to investigate the marketing of image and performance enhancing
drugs (IPEDs) on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. Drawing upon a ‘connective’
ethnographic exploration of IPED use and supply, the paper first outlines a supplier typology on
these platforms, before shedding light on the marketing strategies employed by sellers in order to
overcome the inherent distrust of online sales and build a trustworthy brand. Techniques identified
include athlete sponsorship, the sharing of bodybuilding fitspiration content,
self-objectification, posting images showcasing transformation photos and customer feedback, and
seasonal sales and promotions. Analysis encompasses the centrality of product branding, the
overlaps between licit and illicit market advertising strategies, and the affordances of the
platforms under study. Finally, conclusions
relating to the implications of these findings to scholarship, policy, and regulation are offered.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Organized Crime
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Feb 2023

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