The news that Cadbury’s had agreed a sponsorship deal with the Premier League was met with a degree of negative publicity following criticism from health campaigners and fans alike. However, the brand maintains its first tie-up with football will be fruitful and ensure it remains relevant.
Earlier this week (24 January) the chocolate maker sealed a three-year deal with the global sports brand, describing it as “an incredibly exciting chance” to be part of moments such the Golden Boot and Golden Glove awards.
It sees these moments and upcoming marketing investments as a chance to move the brand further into healthier lifestyles, building on some of the themes it explored around its sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics. Much of this will focus on Cadbury’s promotion of healthier lifestyles to schoolchildren via its existing Health for Life community programme, which aims to change the lifestyles of 60,000 kids across the UK.
For all Cadbury’s talk of using the sponsorship to do good, not everyone has greeted the claim with open arms. A widespread decline in the confectionery market and negative coverage of the brand through Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches: Secrets of Cadbury’ has led some critics to view the deal as a cynical attempt to kickstart the brand and question how a snack brand could promote healthy lifestyles.
Speaking to the BBC on the partnership, Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: "If the sponsorship meant that a host of kids would be encouraged to exercise and kick footballs to kingdom come, but didn't come near a bar of chocolate, the forum might regard it as money well spent.
"But since the Premier League is rich enough to do this on its own anyway, and Cadbury could be looking at a downturn in the confectionery market, we regard this as little more than a marketing ploy."
However, Cadbury has defended the deal, arguing that it’s “important” to align the brand with properties that reinforce the values and scale it has. While it declined to reveal how it would communicate these values, a spokeswoman for the brand said the partnership was key to ensuring it “thrives for generations to come”.
“Part of this is ensuring that the brand remains relevant for today’s consumers and we believe that this partnership does that,” she continued. “We believe our role is to encourage balanced snacking by providing clear nutrition information to consumers on front of pack, promoting healthy lifestyles, improving the nutritional profile of our products.”
The proof of Cadbury’s motive will be whether it makes good on its pledge to keep Health for Life at the forefront of tis sponsorship.
“I’m not really one for quoting Oscar Wilde but the key to landing sponsorships for brands like Cadburys is to acknowledge that, for a growing number of consumers, and parents in particular, it’s very much a case of everything in moderation,” said Neil Hopkins, a director at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment.
“That is why you increasingly see brands whose products are an indulgence putting healthy lifestyle initiatives at the heart of their sponsorship activation plans. They’re effectively saying ‘keep buying and enjoying our products but make sure you balance this by getting and staying active’. The Premier League is of course one of the most powerful sponsorship platforms in the world, so if Cadburys are serious about using it to support their Health for Life initiative, then that suggests a very balanced approach to marketing the association that should not trouble parents unduly.
Cadbury pursued a similar goal for its sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Games, which met with a similar backlash when it was announced but went on to have one of the more celebrated campaigns. It worked in partnership with leading charity Groundwork, supporting over 2000 community events inspired by the Olympic Games.
“We are looking forward to creating more moments of joy like this, with the Premier League,” said the spokeswoman when asked what learnings Cabdury could take from the sponsorship.