Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Cadbury’s are being given an “unrivalled platform” to promote unhealthy brands and products at the Olympics, says a new study.
The firms are “obesity-offsetting” – funding sports equipment and exercise schemes - in return for being allowed to promote calorie-dense foods, according to the report, the Obesity Games.
According to its authors the Children’s Food Campaign, the junk food companies have been given a global platform by London 2012 despite contributing only around 2 per cent of the International Olympic Association’s income.
It added that the policy ill-served taxpayers who are funding the majority of the £1.4bn budget and all the bill for increased costs of obesity on the health service.
Malcolm Clark, campaign co-ordinator, said: “The Olympics have become a celebration of big. For the junk food companies who sponsor the Games that means big restaurants, big audiences, big brand value, big profits. But for children that could also mean bigger waistlines and bigger health problems later in life.
“Yet the one thing about the Olympics which is not big is the proportion of revenue from sponsorship.
“The International Olympic Committee could choose to cut out the top-tier category of food and soft drink partners entirely, and lose little more than 2 per cent its total income.”
The campaigners called for a ban on junk food brands from sponsoring future sporting events.
Ian Barber, director of communications for the Advertising Association, which represents marketers, dismissed the report.
He said: “Much analysis has been done about advertising’s link with our obesity problem.
“Professor David Buckingham – an independent expert - sums it up when he says, ‘the impact, if any, is small’. “
He added: “The Children’s Food Campaign should ditch the rhetoric, listen to the experts and start tackling the real causes of obesity.”