McDonald’s has been attacked for promoting unhealthy food through its sponsorships of the Football Association (FA) and star players.
The Food Commission says the company has used its “community” sponsorship to target the youth market with its unhealthy food. A spokeswoman says: “McDonald’s claims it is being altruistic in supporting the grassroots and the community through the FA, but there are clear marketing benefits for selling its food.”
The spokeswoman adds that sports bodies are also partly to blame, as it is “dishonest to accept money to promote the companies, when they know sports stars would not eat the food”. She calls for sporting bodies such as the FA and individual players to be more responsible when accepting sponsorship money.
A spokesman for McDonald’s, which sponsors the FA’s community programme, says the company will not use footballers in advertising until after the Commons Health Select Committee has ruled on advertising to children.
Insiders at sports development agency Sport England also have doubts about the validity of the sponsorship. One source admits: “You could question what McDonald’s is doing, directly targeting young people with its community sponsorship of the FA.”
Sport England’s sponsorship policy states: “We will not enter into sponsorship agreements with companies that manufacture/sell products that we believe are incompatible with a healthy lifestyle.”
A ban on promoting food products to children, including sponsorships and endorsements, has been suggested by the Food Standards Agency. Such a move would seriously curtail the value of FA sponsorship by partners McDonald’s and Pepsi, which pay &£2.5m a year to sponsor the FA’s “community” and “youth” pillars.