Strategies used by global brands such as Nike have proven effective in changing health behaviour in other countries, researchers from the Institute for Social Marketing at Stirling and the Open University claim.
While many people are aware of the dangers of smoking or leading sedentary lifestyles, they may continue with these unhealthy behaviours due to a perception that they are relaxing or having a treat.
The key to 'social marketing' is to work out how the same benefits can be achieved in a healthy way and to sell it to people.
A National Social Marketing Centre for Excellence has been created to devise a marketing plan to improve health in England.
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: 'Half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle.
Making healthy living initiatives more relevant is incredibly important.'