Fast food and sport a popular combo deal

8:12 pm on 30 May 2017

Analysis - KFC's deal to sponsor the Rugby League World Cup has caused a ruckus, but other sporting codes have also taken money from businesses in health advocates' firing lines.

Restaurant Brands, which owns several fast food brands including KFC, intends to expand in the South Island.

Restaurant Brands' KFC is not the only fast food franchise to sponsor sports. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The fast food chain has been criticised for what its critics say is a cynical move to addict children to fast food.

However, it is already a major sponsor of all five New Zealand Super Rugby brands - the Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Crusaders and Highlanders.

"KFC and rugby are Kiwi favourites," KFC general manager Jamie McKaughan said in the media statement announcing the deal in 2014.

"We're both about gathering family and mates to enjoy something, whether it's a meal or a great game."

KFC has also long been a sponsor of NZ's national secondary school sevens rugby tournament, the Condor Sevens - and across the ditch the Australian Big Bash League and Women's Big Bash League for Twenty20 cricket are also sponsored by the franchise.

New Zealand Rugby Players Association boss Rob Nichol said this year that some players had in the past chosen to avoid appearing in KFC promotions.

"A number of players said 'Look, I've got no issue with KFC sponsoring rugby, but just given my situation, I don't really want to be associated with their advertising.' So we've had players being excused from doing KFC adverts," he said.

"What we do on behalf of all the players, and KFC were outstanding in this respect, is we said 'Listen, when you're developing your adverts, it'd be really sensible we believe to make sure that when you're looking at the role the players have don't put them next to the product - so don't have them holding or consuming the product, just do the brand association stuff.'

"And as soon as we did that, a lot of players said 'Oh yeah, I'm more than happy to be involved now.'"

Mr Nichol's comments were prompted by Blues player Sonny Bill Williams' decision not to display sponsorship branding for BNZ for religious reasons. Williams taped over the bank's advertising on his jersey - initially without telling team management he would be doing so.

Sonny-Bill Williams looks on, during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Blues, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, 8th of April 2017.

Sonny Bill Williams plays with sponsorship logos for BNZ taped over. Photo: Photosport

BNZ placated him by changing its branding on his jersey to another group it sponsors, Plunket, but it raised the question of how such refusals could affect brands' decisions to pay.

Another fast food brand, McDonald's, is also closely linked to sport in New Zealand, supporting junior football and the Olympics.

The All Blacks, the country's biggest sports brand, are "regional partners" with PepsiCo's Gatorade.

Their history with Gatorade is fairly new. The deal replaced an association with competitor Coca-Cola's Powerade in 2015 - a sponsorship that had previously faced criticism by campaigners against sugary drinks.

Consumer NZ has criticised the link between Gatorade and New Zealand Rugby, along with Powerade's Olympics sponsorship, saying they have 15 teaspoons and 11 teaspoons of sugar per bottle respectively.

Coca-Cola has been pinged in the past for helping fund Diabetes New Zealand and Dieticians New Zealand, which one nutrition professor compared to the tobacco lobby's links to worldwide health organisations.

Alcohol in sport, meanwhile, has been roundly criticised, with a government report urging a complete ban in 2014, backed up the following year by health researchers.

And the push for a ban is ongoing.

The All Blacks after a Test match with Wales in 2016.

The All Blacks after a test match with Wales in 2016. Photo: AFP

The All Blacks' sponsors include Steinlager. The Crusaders are sponsored by Monteiths, the Chiefs by Waikato Draught, the Highlanders and Blues by Speights, and the Hurricanes are "major partners" with Tui Golden Lager.

Internationally, the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch InBev - which owns Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Beck's Hoegaarden, Leffe and several other smaller beer brands - although, in contrast, alcohol will almost certainly be banned at the event.