Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Global food giant Nestlé bristled after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) failed to acknowledge its early termination of its sponsorship of the IAAF Kids Athletics (pictured) programme today. ‘We have decided to end our partnership with the IAAF Kids Athletics programme with immediate effect’, read a statement e-mailed from the company. ‘This decision was taken in light of negative publicity associated with allegations of corruption and doping in sport made against the IAAF. We believe this could negatively impact our reputation and image and will therefore terminate our existing agreement with the IAAF, established in 2012. We have informed the IAAF of our decision and await a formal acknowledgment from them that our partnership has ended.’
However, the IAAF was not prepared to play ball. IAAF President Sebastian Coe said he was “Angered and dismayed by today’s kids’ athletics announcement. We will not accept it. It’s the kids who will suffer.” After Coe made his comments, Nestlé hit back. ‘Critics of our decision say that ending the partnership with the IAAF will negatively affect children’, read a statement. ‘There is no question that we remain committed to children’s nutrition and health, notably through our Nestlé Healthy Kids Programme. Our work focuses on helping children to understand the role that nutrition plays in their lives, focusing on nutrition education and physical education.’ Last year, the programme worked in 84 countries around the world, with 285 local partners and involving over 8 million children.
‘The IAAF is in discussion with Nestlé concerning the final year of its five year partnership with IAAF Kids’ Athletics’, read a earlier statement e-mailed by the IAAF – in effect denying that the sponsorship is over. ‘This has been a successful programme with 15 million kids aged seven to 12 years in 76 countries taking part in fun team activities which promotes a healthy, active lifestyle. In 2016, IAAF Kids’ Athletics plans to reach a further 15 countries, training 360 lecturers, instructing 8,640 Physical Education teachers, with three million children participating by the end of the activation.’
Last month, Adidas told the IAAF that it would be ending its partnership early, however it is understood that the sportswear giant is still in talks about salvaging the relationship. The company’s logo still appears on the IAAF’s internet site. As reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative, other companies have also expressed their concerns regarding corruption allegations at the IAAF.
It is understood that the IAAF relationship with Adidas dates back to at least 1928, easily making it the longest commercial partnership in sport. In November last year, IAAF President Sebastian Coe reluctantly ended his agreement with Adidas’ rival, US sportswear company Nike. Now that relationship has been terminated, Nike would be free to take over as an IAAF partner should Adidas withdraw, as there would be no existing conflict of interest. However, as reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative, questions are likely to be asked about how Coe’s close relationship with Nike has affected its partnership agreement with Adidas.