Virgin London Marathon keeps sponsorship policy confidential - but welcomes Nestle back for 2011

Share this

Nestlé sponsored the London Marathon in 2010 with its controversial Pure Life brand of bottled water. Only Nestlé water was available, creating a dilemma for runners who support the Nestlé boycott over its pushing of baby milk, who had to break their personal boycott or put their health at risk. 

Nestlé is the most boycotted company in the UK. Baby Milk Action asked the Virgin London Marathon for its sponsorship policy and a public statement on Nestlé's sponsorship.

We have been told:

"Nestle will continue as one of the sponsors to the Virgin London Marathon next year (2011).

"The London Marathon’s sponsorship policy is confidential to the organisation of the event including the Race Director, CEO, Board of Directors and Trustees."

We have asked why the sponsorship policy is confidential. Many organisations do make their sponsorship policy publicly available. The better organisations are also prepared to consult on their policies or welcome feedback on them. The Charity Commission guidelines on fundraising and sponsorship state: "Charities should be particularly cautious as co-branding or closely associating the charity with a company can become problematic if the company is discovered to engage in unethical practices or criminal activity. Charities need to carefully research the commercial participator and should consider whether a partnership with the commercial participator is appropriate and in line with the charity's values and objects."

Obviously we are also concerned to learn that Virgin London Marathon has a sponsorship policy that allows a company as unethical as Nestlé to pass as a sponsor. We have asked what consideration was given, if any, to ethical concerns over Nestlé's practices and the promotion of its name, particularly given it is the most boycotted company in the UK and this has an impact on many who wish to support the London Marathon. The Virgin London Marathon organisers responded to say they have 'no further comment'. 

The Charity Commission guidelines state: "Charities should be transparent about any relationship they have with a commercial partner and put in place the appropriate safeguards."

Pure Life leafletPure Life leafletOrganisations such as Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund and Breakthrough Breast Cancer have turned down donations (of £250,000 and £1 million respectively) from Nestlé because it conflicts with their funding policies. Nestlé's current Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, has clearly stated that the purpose of supporting good causes is to benefit shareholders. Putting those who wish to run the London Marathon, often in support of a charity themselves, in the position where they have to break their boycott or put their health at risk is a pretty disgusting strategy. For further analysis of Mr. Brabeck's view of good causes see: 

Nestlé is targeted with boycott action over its marketing of baby milk. In its current global marketing campaign, it is claiming its baby milk 'protects' babies and is 'The new "Gold Standard" in infant nutrition'. Babies fed on baby milk rather than breastfed are at greater risk of becoming ill and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. Members of the public are emailing Nestlé, but the company has indicated it will continue this strategy, which violates the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. See the Email Nestlé campaign.

Nestlé is also specifically criticised over its bottled water businesses, as explained in our press release for the London Marathon in 2010.

Nestlé is one of the companies people can vote into the Corporate Hall of Shame in 2010. The nomination states:

"Nestlé – for undermining the human right to water and aggressively expanding its environmentally destructive water bottling operations over the objections of communities globally."

Baby Milk Action would welcome the organisers of the Virgin London Marathon being open about their sponsorship policy and allow people who wish ethical standards to be applied to comment.

Anyone who wishes to register their concern over Nestlé being promoted as a sponsor of the London Marathon, can join the Facebook group: "We want Nestlé out of the London Marathon". See: