How the KP cricket sponsorship debacle highlights the need for system leadership across the board

How the KP cricket sponsorship debacle highlights the need for system leadership across the board

Authored by Matthew Ashton, Lead Director of Public Health, Food Active and Matthew Philpott, Executive Director, Health Equalities Group.


Last week it was announced that KP will be sponsoring The Hundred cricket tournament which is due to start next summer.  This new short format hopes to engage more young people in the sport, with the games being played out live on Sky Sports and, for the first time since 2005, on terrestrial TV (in this case the BBC). With a pledge from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to help grow the game of cricket and get families active, it is extremely surprising that the governing body has decided to partner with KP Snacks as title sponsor for the competition.

At the launch event for the competition on Thursday 3rd October the KP Snacks range were emblazoned across the shirts of the eight new city-based teams, including a host of England stars, with brands including Butterkist popcorn, KP Nuts, Tyrells, Skips, Hula Hoops, McCoys, Popchips and Pom Bears.

However, if we flip the coin and take a look from the other side, it is estimated that by 2020 – when the tournament launches – half of the children in England and Wales will be overweight or obese. Our children are already consuming too many high fat, salt, sugar (HFSS) snack products, and with the likes of Butterkist containing 50% sugar, McCoys clocking up over 250 calories per serving, and the inclusion of Pom Bears – a snack food aimed at young children – you have to question whether the ECB have acted responsibly in making this commercial decision.

Food Active has continually highlighted the lack of focus on sports sponsorship when it comes to government action on childhood obesity, and are pleased that today the outgoing Chief Medical Officer has recommended regulating the marketing of junk food at high profile venues, including significant moderation of HFSS marketing and sponsorship at sports events.

However, we need these recommendations to become action, and to make this happen it needs to be embraced across the system. If we are to turn the tide on this obesity crisis, leadership from across the system is paramount, not only from grass roots organisations like ourselves, but also from Public Health England, Department of Health & Social Care, and across Local Government, and indeed from the private sector – including actors such as governing bodies of sport.

Healthy weight is no longer the sole responsibility of public health, and we need a joined-up, high-level, comprehensive commitment to make some real change, to the benefit of all our young people.


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