Rio Ferdinand appears on Gudang Garam advertising
Footballer Rio Ferdinand has been criticised by the CIEH this week for allowing his name to be linked to a firm that makes cigarettes, in a prominent multi-media advertising campaign.
Mr Ferdinand appears in billboard advertisements in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, with the logo Gudang Garam on his shirt. He also appears in YouTube clips advertising Gudang Garam InterSport, an internet-based sports channel.
Gudang Garam manufacture clove cigarettes, which are particularly popular with children. It is the second largest cigarette manufacturer in Indonesia.
Ian Gray, principal CIEH policy officer, commented: ‘We have successfully campaigned for tighter smoking controls in the UK, but that’s not enough. We must be concerned about the prevalence of smoking internationally, particularly in the developing world, where it is a major killer. It is particularly galling to see a prominent UK celebrity recognised by young football supporters the world over participating in such a distasteful and ill-advised campaign.’
On 4 June Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection contacted Manchester United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, to express concern about the billboard and internet advertising.
The letter notes that 66 per cent of male adults smoke and a third of children and that there has been a six-fold increase in young smokers since 1995.
It accuses Mr Ferdinand of sending the wrong message to children and young people and says: ‘We urge you to act on this matter as soon as possible and have this unhealthy promotion removed immediately.’
A statement to the commission from Mr Ferguson’s PA said: ‘At present Sir Alex is away from the office on but I would like to have all the information for his return at the end of June.’
A spokesman for the anti-smoking charity Ash deplored the use by Gudang Garam of ‘cross branding’ to promote its product.
‘The tobacco industry has a long history of using elite sportsmen to recruit young smokers. If this were to appear in the UK or anywhere in Europe it would be completely illegal.’
A spokesperson for Manchester United said: ‘Rio was supporting the InterSport channel who are the official Barclays premier league rights holders to show matches, which unfortunately is sponsored by a tobacco company. He was in no way promoting tobacco. He was merely promoting the fact that you could see the Barclays premier matches on the InterSport channel.’
The spokesperson added that the contract runs out in October and Rio ‘will not be doing it again’.
A spokesperson for Mr Ferdinand said that the footballer was in no way advertising tobacco or smoking but a football channel which was associated with UK sport and English premiership teams.