INTRODUCTION Rates of obesity and overweight among South Africans are increasing. Food marketing has a profound impact on children and affects their lifelong eating patterns; in urban areas of South Africa, disposable incomes are growing and ultra-processed food is increasingly available at low cost. The combination of these factors will strain an already fragile health system. Our aim was to investigate the density of outdoor sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) advertising and the number of formal and informal vendors selling SSBs in a transforming, historically disadvantaged urban setting of South Africa. METHODS A digital camera and global positioning system navigation system were used to record the location of SSB advertisements and food vendors in a demarcated area in Soweto. Data were collected by walking or driving through each street; a food inventory was completed for every food vendor. Spatial analyses were conducted using a geographic information system. RESULTS A total of 145 advertisements for SSBs were found over a driven or walked distance of 111.9 km. The density of advertisements was 3.6 per km(2) in relation to schools, and 50% of schools had branded advertising of SSBs on their school property. Most (n = 104; 58%) of the 180 vendors in the study sold SSBs. CONCLUSION This is the first study in South Africa to document the location of billboard advertisements and vendors in relation to schools. Marketing of products that contribute to obesity is common in urban Soweto. Our findings have implications for policies that regulate SSB advertising, especially in the proximity of schools.
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