By BERN MORLEY
If we were to play a word association game, what do you think would spring to mind if were to say, ‘Little Athletics’?
Fitness? Health? Active kids? Big Mac? Huh?
Little Athletics Australia is currently sponsored by the largest Fast Food franchise in the world. This means, their logo is on every certificate a child receives, on every uniform they wear, on every related website they log in to and this also means they receive a free meal voucher when they achieve.
There is one woman however, who intends to change this. Danielle O’Brien currently has one daughter participating in Little Athletics Victoria with hopes of enrolling her second child when eligible. The juxtaposition of a child’s healthy activity being fostered by a corporation that is quite possibly the largest contributor to childhood obesity, does not sit well with Danielle. And rightly so.
Danielle has started an online petition to remove the sponsorship and ultimately, the partnership between Little Athletics Australia and McDonald’s. Danielle says:
“Our family loves little athletics. My daughter currently participates in the program in Victoria, and my youngest is keen to join this coming summer season. It’s such a wonderful active & social experience for kids of all ages and their families. What I don’t understand is how Little Athletics is allowing McDonalds to use this forum to market to my children. Why is a fast food restaurant sponsoring a sporting event which promotes an active healthy lifestyle?
In a time of unprecedented and skyrocketing child obesity, junk food corporations continue to target our children under the guise of community participation. This manipulative marketing technique is a deliberate and meticulously planned attempt to peddle their unhealthy and fattening foods to our children, trying in the association of exercise, health and fun with their products which are in actuality the antithesis of healthy living.”
And while the director of Little Athletics says the current partnership with McDonald’s is based on “principles of fun and fitness… getting young people involved in healthy activity” — sadly, that can be a little hard to believe.
For McDonald’s, those warm and fuzzy things may be a true but ultimately it’s about selling their product to our kids. And I’m not sure that as parents, we should be a part of that.
Unfortunately though, community sporting clubs often need big business to back them and to provide funding so that meets can be held. The reality of the situation is this: part of accepting the benefits and the cash is to also accept the devil in the detail.
And organisations like Little Athletics rely on the financial support of businesses like McDonalds if they’re going to be able to run the activities that they do.
While many might not like the idea of a fast food joint sponsoring children’s sport, it’s not like Little Athletics can walk away from this commercial relationship unless they have a genuine alternative.
And the Australian Custard Apple Association just isn’t in the position to put up the funds.
To further play devil’s advocate, show me a child that doesn’t have McDonald’s from time to time. It, like chocolate, like a packet of potato chips, is a treat.
I know I grew up with a junior burger and coke directly after Netball throughout my childhood. This of course had nothing to do with being exposed to it via my sports club, it was just simply part of my childhood. And to be honest, quite a fond memory.
So here’s what we know. We know junk food is not good for our children. We should know as parents that to let our children have junk food occasionally and as a treat is perfectly fine. We also should know that to feed our children exclusively on a diet of junk food would be neglect, at best.
We also know that institutions like Little Athletics are valuable for both the physical and social aspects they provide. And maybe the fact that McDonald’s is giving back to the community via a healthy avenue is almost like they are getting to offset some of the damage they are doing. But maybe it’s time to change the status quo and call out the blatant hypocrisy.
Maybe it’s time to speak up.
If you want to help, you can sign Danielle’s petition HERE.
Should McDonalds be allowed to sponsor Little Athletics? If so, should there be conditions put their sponsorship, like not using food vouchers as prizes?