Corporate sponsorship tie-ups between sports associations and fatty foods or drinks brands have long been seen as misaligned relationships.
McDonald’s’ sponsoring of the Olympics raised eyebrows among health groups and others who felt it impacted the event’s potential to inspire the world’s armchair sports fans and drive down global obesity. And while tobacco advertising has already been banned, there continues to be campaigns for alcohol advertising to follow suit, with its brand association with sports such as cricket, golf and rugby cited as particularly inappropriate.
It’s less hard to imagine the England rugby squad quaffing pints of Heineken than it is to think of Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah tucking in to Big Macs in between track events, but still, we expect our sporting champions to be paragons of health, consuming only smoothies made from cabbage, prunes and papayas, or pasta and baked potatoes.
Now, Liverpool FC has agreed a major sponsorship deal with Dunkin’ Donuts. Should an organisation whose success is dependent on the health and fitness of its key players be making a link with a brand whose prime business is producing soft, melt-in-the-mouth, doughy circles of lip-licking sugariness? Oh, so soft and doughy.
The most calorific donut listed on Dunkin’ Donuts’ website is the Chocolate Coconut Cake Donut, a name that in no way attempts to hide the heavyweight nature of its not-terribly-good-for-you-ness. You’d have to run around eight kilometres to burn off its 550 calories.
Though it’s the skinny option compared with the large Frozen Caramel Coffee Coolatta with Cream. What on earth goes in to a coffee to make it 1,050 calories?
In marketing match-ups such as these, campaigners are generally concerned about the negative influence on the health of fans of the sponsored organisation, in this case Liverpool FC. But what about the opportunity to have a positive influence on the health of fans of the sponsoring fast-food or sugary snack businesses?
Rather than being incongruous pairings, it makes perfect sense for them to join forces. Whether or not alcohol or fast-food companies are banned from sponsoring sporting events or teams, the world isn’t going to suddenly stop selling beer. Or burgers. Or doughnuts. Any way in which those retailers can play a part in promoting sport has got to be good, right?
Financial support and supplies of treats and coffee for fans at half-time are all very well, but Dunkin’ Donuts could score a major PR goal if the proposed “marketing initiatives” with Liverpool FC over the coming years encouraged a more healthy lifestyle for consumers.
For example, its funding could extend to small local leagues for under-16s around Liverpool or in Merseyside, especially those that are struggling to stay active because of rising costs, or attract new members because of high fees.
Fast-food and baked-goods businesses that sponsor sports groups should think innovatively throughout these deals about how their sponsorships could counteract some of the poorer nutritional statistics of their products – and boost their brand recognition at the same time.