Source: Stuff, 7 June 2016
Health experts are calling for an end to sponsorship deals
between sports people and junk food giants.
Last week, a five-year-old boy walked into
hospital, before an appointment to have his teeth pulled,
drinking Powerade. When asked why he was drinking the sugar-filled
energy drink he replied "because Richie does". This comment,
referring to former All Blacks captain and national treasure
Richie McCaw, has reignited calls for an end to sponsorship
deals between fast food and drinks companies, and sportspeople.
It's not the first time a child has made this type of
comment. In 2012, a young netball player in Porirua told
researchers Powerade gave people "role model
Healthcare professionals say when sporting idols endorse
sugary drinks or fast food it sends a confusing and unhealthy
message to young sporting fans - and with the third worst childhood
obesity rate in the OECD, not to mention dental health issues,
that's not something role models should be encouraging.
New Zealand research from 2012, based on logos on sports
teams' websites, found 38 teams were sponsored by companies
that produced unhealthy food.
Rugby took the biggest bite of the burger, with 21 teams
supported by unhealthy food brands, according to the study.
Meanwhile, the Warriors are sponsored by burger chain Wendy's and
Super Rugby teams are backed by KFC. Boxing star Joseph Parker is
sponsored by Burger King and New Zealand Football is sponsored by
GOVERNMENT 'SHOULD BAN JUNK FOOD
University of Otago public health researcher Louise Signal said
these sponsorship deals were a "considerable concern" and it was up
to the Government to ban the promotion of junk food in sport.
Similar steps had been taken when it came to promoting alcoholic
products. Signal said children associated sporting success with
consuming the product and
studies had found a clear linkbetween junk food marketing and
This approach is supported by the
World Health Organisation's latest Ending Childhood Obesity
report. Signal said blame didn't lie solely on sports teams or
sportspeople - everyone was responsible from the Government
and the sports sector, to parents. But leadership from the
Minister of Health and Sport would be "invaluable". While teams
believed they needed the money, sport received little money from
these sponsorship deals, so they could be replaced with minimal
impact on sports organisations, she said.
'AVERAGE 10-YEAR-OLD DOESN'T READ A LABEL'
While some companies that produce unhealthy food said they were
not marketing their products to children, Kiwi kids
struggled to differentiate between what was healthy food
consumption and what wasn't. Nutrition Foundation
dietitian Sarah Hanrahan said these types of
endorsements were confusing for children. "On one hand
they're being told about health and wellness at school, and on the
other they're switching on the TV and seeing their sporting heroes
doing something quite contrary... "And these people are absolutely
Children who saw All Blacks consuming sports drinks did not
realise the sugary beverages were appropriate for high-performance
athletes but not for everyday kids, Hanrahan said. "The average
10-year-old doesn't read a label." The consumption of these types
of foods led to obesity and poor dental health, which led to an
increasing number of children needing their teeth pulled.
DON'T BLAME RICHIE
New Zealand Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nicol
said some of the points raised by the health sector could have
"some real validity" but they needed to take them to the "right
table". "I think it's completely inappropriate to put it back on
the individual athletes...that's just naive to be honest."
It was up to the Government to put in place restrictions or
standards around product promotion, as it had done
for alcohol, Nicol said. It was fine for people to
have staunch views but it wasn't for the players to decide
what was right for the country. "At the end of the day, athletes
are people and they have their own pressures and beliefs and
comfort level in this space.... "It's important that people don't
all of a sudden start apportioning name on the individual
A lot of rugby players already opted out of certain promotions
because they did not want to be associated with specific products,
Nicol said. For example, many Pasifika players did not want to
appear in ads involving fast food due to the issues with obesity
and health in their communities.
When players or teams worked with products that fell into that
"grey space", the association had a lot of creative control over
the ads so the players weren't directly endorsing unhealthy
choices, he said. Rugby players also had a
conscientious objection clause in their contracts, which meant
they could choose not to be involved with a specific product if it
went against their personal or religious beliefs.
SO, IS RICHIE RESPONSIBLE?
McCaw's manager Dean Hegan said while the star player
was captain of the All Blacks while Powerade was a sponsor, he
never personally appeared in any of the sports drink's ads. "Richie
McCaw is certainly not responsible for the sponsorship deals his
former employer made," Hegan said. "But we all feel for the
parents and this child."
Since leaving the All Blacks, McCaw had begun endorsing dairy
giant Fonterra and as part of that he supported the Milk For
Schools initiative. New Zealand Rugby general manager of public
affairs Nick Brown said the All Blacks signed the new deal
with Gatorade because it helped athletes stay hydrated while
exercising. "All our teams advocate healthy lifestyles and, they,
like most Kiwis, accept that sports drinks can play a useful role
in the balanced diet of active people."
Frucor Beverages, the company in charge of Gatorade in New
Zealand, said it did not market directly to children. Frucor
managing director Craig Irwin said NZ Rugby approached
Gatorade because it recognised the drink "as a
highly effective, scientifically-proven sports drink". "The product
has specific functional benefits for adult sportspeople, such as
replacing key electrolytes essential to hydration and muscle
function that are lost during intense physical activity."
Duco Events, who work with Joseph Parker and organise boxing
events, declined to comment on its sponsorship deals with Burger
King. Warriors managing director Jim Doyle did not respond to
requests for comment.