Monday, January 21, 2013

A response (of sorts) from The Warriors about their sponsorship deal with a formula feed company

At the end of last year I wrote to The Warriors and CEO of the NRL, in my role of Professional Development Officer, about the concerns the Australian College of Midwives has about The Warriors new sponsorship deal with the formula feed company,  Fernbaby. Needless to say, the response has been less than reassuring!

Sponsorship deal
Toward the end of last year I blogged about my concern that the rugby league team, The Warriors, had signed a sponsorship deal with a formula feed company. This includes wearing the company's logo on their shorts. The concern is that the World Health Organisation marketing of formula product has been contravened, with the implication of giving mixed messages to families about breastfeeding. The Warriors is giving the message that they support formula feeding, which we know is detrimental to health. This is particularly concerning considering the population that supports The Warriors are at especial risk of exactly the health conditions that formula milk increases.

Australian College of Midwives
In December I supported the posting of letters to The Warriors and the CEO of the NRL, in conjunction with UNICEF, voicing our concerns. Interestingly, there are constraints around rugby companies signing up for sponsorship from cigarette companies, yet no such consideration with this equally importnat public health issue.

As yet, we have not had an official reply. However, both the NRL and Warriors have spoken to a sports reporter, Daniel Lane, and confirmed that The Warriors will be going ahead with the deal, and that it has not contravened the NRL sponsorship guidelines.

In thinking about what we can do next, I am considering that we need to write a paper giving guidance about marketing, sponsorship and issues about engaging with formula companies, for the NRL and similar bodies. What do you think? What do you think should be our next move, or do you think we're getting our knickers in a twist about a non-issue?


Leigh Blackall said...

detrimental to health - sweeping generalisation. Formula milk is good:
In the absence of a wet-nurse, lactating sisters and cousins, or other social arrangements
Enable a man or others to give a sleep deprived mother regular rest by supplementing
Gives a baby reliable food if a mother's breast milk is too little, or emotionally restricted, such as from sleep deprivation
I can see the logic in a group of men wanting to support formula

Sarah Stewart said...

I don't think "detrimental to health" is that much of a sweeping statement. We know there are significant health risks to formula compared to breastfeeding. If a mother is sleep-deprived, there are better ways to support her, such as giving her time and space to catch up with sleep during the day etc. By giving formula, you are interfering with the BF mechanism, and making shortage of milk even more of a problem. The problem you are describing isn't with the breastfeeding, which needs to be encouraged, but rather with the way support is provided, not least by health professionals.

As for the men at the Warriors Club and NRL...all they're worried about is money!