A controversial multi-million pound deal between England cricket and maker of Hula Hoops and Butterkist to sponsor The Hundred family tournament has backfired, after the advertising watchdog banned a promotional campaign to target junk food on children.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have reached an agreement with KP Snacks to be the official sponsor of each of the teams taking part in the Hundred, a new tournament designed to encourage youngsters to get into the game, which was played for the first time last year. .
The tie-up has been criticized by health campaigners and Simon Stevens, the outspoken former head of NHS England, who argued that associating Skips and Nik Naks with snacks at McCoy’s went against the fight to reduce the growing problem of childhood obesity.
KP Snacks ran a campaign in which each of its brands sponsored a team from across England and Wales entering the contest. It included an email promotion, Instagram posts on KP Snacks’ brand accounts, and a larger paid advertising campaign on the Meta-owned social media site.
The Advertising Standards Authority received two complaints – from the Children’s Food Campaign and Food Active – that the adverts breached UK rules banning foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) aimed at under-16s.
The advertising watchdog’s investigation found that two elements of the campaign violated its rules. One was a co-branded email promotion to give away 1,000 cricket bats and balls that featured a “bright, colorful, cartoon-style” image of cricketers and the McCoy brand.
The other was an Instagram advert featuring Butterkist caramel popcorn – which has 51g of sugars per 100g – offering the chance to win tickets to watch Birmingham Phoenix play in the tournament.
The ASA found that of the 29,276 email campaign recipients, 1.3%, or 326, were identified as belonging to people aged 16 or under, a breach of UK advertising rules.
The watchdog also found that the Butterkist Instagram ad did not work with specific targeting criteria to prevent it from being seen by those under 16, as the other two Instagram ads had.
“We have told the ECB and KP Snacks to take reasonable steps in the future to ensure that advertisements for HFSS products are not directed at children via media selection or the context in which they appear” , said the ASA.
A Cent spokesperson said: “We are sorry that due to an internal error, an email promoting a giveaway of free cricket bats and balls has been sent to a number of under 16 as well as the adults for whom it was intended. Although the email contained the logo of one of our partners’ brands, applicants were not required or encouraged to purchase any products to apply for batting and ball and the purpose of the contest was to incentivize more people to be active. We are putting additional systems in place to prevent this from happening again.
KP Snacks did not respond to a request for comment.