What do Big Tobacco and the Olympic sponsors (Big Food) have in common?

Everything…  if only the penny would drop with the International Olympic Committee!

  • Both donate large amounts of money to sport and other healthy pursuits. This portrays them as companies who care about health and subliminally links their brands with physical activity, athletes and sporting achievement
  • Both deny the health effects of their products and dismiss as “junk science” peer reviewed studies showing a link between their products and disease
  • Instead of entering into rational debate about the health effects of their products, they make personal attacks on the credibility of those who question them.
  • Both push “personal responsibility” as a way to address health problems yet operate in a way that makes healthy behavior difficult – note McDonalds and Coca cola, through sponsorship deals will be the only food and soft-drink brands advertised at the London games, both at the venues and through TV broadcasts to millions of worldwide viewers!
  • Both promote addiction which undermines people’s ability to behave in a “responsible” way
  • Both market intensively and aggressively, particularly to children and adolescents – a “cradle to grave” approach
  • Both roll out the “nanny state” argument when anyone suggests policies that may restrict their sales
  • Both make a big noise about introducing “safer” products eg filtered cigarettes (Big Tobacco), fruit bags and salads (Big Food).  These are strategic “decoys” from their less healthier products, and the losses they make from these are more than compensated for by the good PR they generate
  • Both spend mega-millions lobbying to stifle government action against their products and to pro-actively influence policy.
  • Both set up decoy organisations with altruistic aims and names to promote their pseudo science.  The American Beverage Association for example has set up the “Foundation for a Healthy America”.  This is used to market their views and products in a way that suggests no bias from them.
  • Neither are around to pick up the pieces and pay the health care costs of the millions of people they send into a life of illness and misery.  That’s left to us the taxpayers.

While not so long ago Big Tobacco sponsorship of sport was normal and accepted, now it would be unthinkable.  I hope that in years to come we will look back on our current Olympic sponsors (McDonalds, Coca Cola, Cadburys and Heineken) in the same way.  To me it is inconceivable how such sponsors can be seen as compatible with Olympic ideals. The penny has to drop some time, I just hope there are still some people fit and healthy enough to compete in sports with divisions other than heavy-weight!

One thought on “What do Big Tobacco and the Olympic sponsors (Big Food) have in common?

  1. I agree – a friend in the UK says that people have been told they may be turned away from a venue if they turn up wearing a pepsi t-shirt – not that pepsi is any healthier but it illustrates the stranglehold.

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