As Jamie Oliver backs McDonald's Olympic sponsorship reform, ISBA slams diet campaigners' 'need for headlines'

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) has spoken out against Jamie Oliver's suggestion that companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's should be banned from sponsoring the Olympics unless they meet particular health standards.

During an interview with the Daily Telegraph last week, Oliver revealed he was looking to raise £100m to create a kite mark which could be used by any food firm to show they had achieved a certain level of nutritional and ethical excellence.

Speaking a few months ahead of Rio 2016, he said he wants to see the motion in place by the time Tokyo 2020 rolls around. However, the advertising body has dubbed the chef's outlook on the matter as "simplisctic."

"The big problem with diet campaigners is their need for headlines," Ian Twin, ISBA’s director of public affairs told The Drum.

"The other problem is demonising some foods they disapprove of as 'junk'. It’s far too simplistic and we know is full of exceptions to make it work. The missed opportunity to tackle obesity by tackling over eating and a lack of a balanced diet is too sad to contemplate."

Oliver said he had already presented the scheme to some "wealthy billionaires," continuing: "Forgive me if I am being romantic – but in our lifetime at the Olympics, which is the biggest theatre of all time, I want to see something with goodness at its heart on its billboards.”

Pointing to the London Olympics in 2012, Oliver said he was "depressed" that, due to sponsorship deals, the only food and drink available inside Olympic Park was produced by McDonald's, Coca-Cola or Cadbury, adding that nobody could be "proud" of the event from that perspective.

While Oliver did concede that he wasn't looking for an outright ban on McDonald's or Coca-Cola at the Olympics, he said that his kite mark scheme could be taken as an opportunity for food and drink companies to improve their own standards, as well as children's nutrition.

Taking stock of The Food Revolution host's remarks, ISBA's Twin noted: "Of course Jamie has a point about both obesity and about the lack of food choice at events.

"Perhaps he is right to question the exclusivity rules that surround the Olympics…but he will need to come up with an answer about the cost of the Olympics and how to attract very big payers. The answers may not attract very much support."

Oliver has been one of the most high-profile campaigners to back the government's so-called sugar tax, which is currently undergoing consultation and will place a levy on brands selling high sugar products, like Coca-Cola.

The proposed scheme will fine drinks giants on the volume of sugar-sweetened products they make or import at the rate of 18p and 24p a litre.

While some big name brands are set to sue the government over the change, there has been much debate in the industry about how advertisers should use the public debate around the issue to harness the impact their marketing has on consumer attitudes.

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