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Polymers and Advertising in Sport

Almost every day you will see a commercial or product placement of some sort. Many companies invest heavily in their marketing and advertising departments in order to promote their products as widely as possible. This holds true for sporting products.

Almost every day you will see a commercial or product placement of some sort. Many companies invest heavily in their marketing and advertising departments in order to promote their products as widely as possible. This holds true for sporting products.

Polymer Advertising in Sports

However, even without a budget stretching into the millions of pounds it is possible to create effective and eye-catching advertisements for all sorts of sporting items. Therefore, why not have a go at making your own advert for a product of your choice:

The following items will be required:

  • Paper, pens and other stationary for a hand-drawn poster.
  • Computer with a word processor or similar software.

Choose a product that you use or simply one that you are interested in. Highlight the benefits of your chosen product over competitors and try to encourage people to take up your chosen sport and use the product you are advertising. You could also take a picture and demonstrate where different polymers have been used.

Remember to show your advert to your peers to see if anyone would want to buy your merchandise. If you’re feeling particularly creative then why not invent a brand new product or company!

Why not come up with a slogan, or short promotional blurb, advertising your polymer? You might like to take inspiration from two popular advertising slogans for ‘plastic’, namely, Mastercard’s clever For Everything Else, There’s MasterCard and Don’t Leave Home Without It from American Express.

Plasticisers in Sport

When you have selected your chosen product, look out for the presence of plasticisers. A plasticiser is a substance which when added to a material, usually a polymer, makes it flexible, resilient and easier to handle. For example, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), [-CH2CHCl-]n, is an extremely hard plastic, and to make it more flexible, plasticisers are added. These are small organic molecules that embed themselves in-between the PVC polymer chains so they cannot interact with each other as well. This reduced interaction ensures that the polymer is more pliable.

In PVC, the most common plasticisers are a class of esters called phthalates (the most common being bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP, a diester with the chemical formula C24H38O4). They are the preferred plasticiser found in, for example, trainers, because of their strong performance, cost-effectiveness and durability. The characteristics of an individual phthalate often make it well-suited to a specific product, allowing manufacturers to meet unique requirements for its use (function and safety specifications), appearance (texture, colour, size and shape), durability and wear.

Phthalates are only slightly volatile, and so tend not to evaporate and they have little or no odour. Despite this, there has been some concerns over the presence of phthalates in ‘new car smell’. The reason for the concern is that some of these compounds have been found to interfere with normal sexual development in male rats.

Some scientific studies have indicated that phthalates behave as endocrine disruptors in human beings, that is, they interfere with our normal hormonal mechanisms. Consequently, the use of phthalates with relatively low molecular weights has been restricted in the European Union. In contrast, scientific studies on phthalates with high molecular weights (called high phthalates) have concluded that they do not pose a risk to human health at typical exposure levels.

The health concerns associated with phthalates, coupled with the fact that they are not chemically bonded to polymers and so can leach out into the environment, have inspired the development of alternatives and this continues to be an active area of research.

The Impact of Chemistry on Sport

The impact of chemistry on sport is nicely illustrated by the 100 metres sprint. At the Berlin Olympics, in 1936, Jesse Owens ran the race in 10.3 seconds. This is slower than Usain Bolt’s record of 9.58 seconds in 2009. However, Owen’s track surface was made of cinders, he wore heavier and less flexible leather shoes, and his “starting block” consisted of two holes in the cinders that he had to dig with a trowel. According to a biomechanics analysis, if Owens had used a real starting block, worn modern shoes, and run on a rubber-polyurethane surface, he would have been within a single stride of Bolt!

To illustrate the point, this clip shows how a modern sprinter can maximise the use of the starting block.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

So, without new technology, peak human performance has not increased by that much over the years.

This article is from the free online

Exploring Everyday Chemistry

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