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Seizing the potential of sport and physical activity as we approach this year’s London Marathon

Seizing the potential of sport and physical activity as we approach this year’s London Marathon
Liz Nieboer, Head of Sustainability and External Affairs

Liz Nieboer, Head of Sustainability and External Affairs | Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I

5 min read Partner content

As London Marathon’s longest continual sponsor, Lucozade Sport is proud to be sponsoring the TCS London Marathon yet again as the brand’s owner, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I (SBF GB&I) calls for Government to further promote sport participation and physical activity in deprived communities.

As the official sports drink and gels provider for the London Marathon for 23 years, we’re proud that Lucozade Sport has helped to hydrate and support runners on their marathon journey for over two decades.

The London Marathon is a significant moment to raise the profile of and boost participation in sport and physical activity, improving health outcomes, bringing communities together and, of course, raising significant funds for charities. At SBF GB&I, we want to use the occasion as an opportunity to make sure more people get the chance to take part in and enjoy the benefits of sport and physical activity.

Of course, as a soft drinks company there is always going to be questions raised on our credibility to talk about the importance of physical activity. Too often companies talk about exercise and activity, so they don’t have to talk about calories and sugar.

But at SBF GB&I, supporting our customers to live healthier lives is at the very heart of what we do, and is core to our company value of Growing for Good. That is why we have been reformulating our drinks since 2013 and went further by leading our industry in 2016 and reformulating across our entire portfolio. We have invested more than £13m in ensuring that our entire portfolio is now non-HFSS, and that each core brand now has a lighter alternative. Innovation has also created new, lower-sugar and less sweet drinks and sub-brands, such as Ribena Sparkling, Lucozade Sport FitWater and Lucozade Sport Zero Sugar, the latter of which was released only last month.

We’re proud to say we have successfully removed more than 25,000 tonnes of sugar from our products and 98 billion calories from our consumers’ diets since 2016. But it’s not just about calories in, it’s about calories out too.

While MPs know the importance of sport and physical activity - YouGov polling conducted for SBF GB&I found 69 per cent of MPs believe sport and physical activity are one of the most important ways to encourage healthier lifestyles (YouGov, 2022)– we believe governments could be doing more to deliver on their ambitions to encourage healthier lifestyles and get more people active.

Data from Sport England shows progress needs to be made to boost participation in sport and physical activity, particularly those from deprived communities. And we believe that that’s best done through evidence-based approaches to policy making and campaign delivery.

Marathon and Lucozade image

Of course, business has a role to play. Beyond the London Marathon, we have previously invested £30m into our “Made to Move” campaign, which led to 1.5 million people across the UK doing more activity over three years. As the 15th most culturally relevant sports brand in the world2, Lucozade Sport continues to unlock potential including as the Official Hydration Partner of all England Football Teams since 2006. The brand believes in the power of football to drive change irrespective of gender, ethnicity, or where you come from and continues to champion this in its marketing, inspiring people to get moving including during two huge sporting moments in the calendar last year – the Women’s Euros and Men's World Cup.

In 2018, SBF GB&I launched B Active, a three-year programme that used the power of sport and exercise to forge career paths and positively impact the lives of over 10,000 16-24 year olds living in underprivileged communities.

The scheme (as assessed by Leeds Beckett University) demonstrated how sport and physical activity can be a catalyst for improving young peoples’ lives, reducing health and wider inequalities, and helping give them more determination to pursue education, work and volunteering.

The scheme demonstrated the need for an overarching government strategy that puts greater investment into communities, supports the training of coaches, and shares best practice nationally.

Over the years we have been supporting the marathon, we have seen successive Governments make significant progress – but SBF GB&I believes more could be done. We need to address the societal challenges and inequalities that currently limit people’s ability to be active.

 Marathon and Lucozade image

There is no quick fix, but through greater investment, improved and more coordinated action across businesses, governments and sports bodies, progress can be made.

We know that investing in people, equipping them with the skills to give back to their communities and the confidence to come together through sport and activity can make a real difference. The potential reward is not just improving health outcomes, but drastically boosting young people’s prospects and supporting communities that need it most.

We hope this comes through loud and clear in the UK Government’s sport strategy, expected to be published later this year.

In the meantime, we wish everyone taking part in the TCS London Marathon the best of the luck with the remainder of their training and look forward to supporting them across the finish line.

1. YouGov, October 2022, 69% MPs believe the uptake of sport and physical activity is the most effective action for encouraging healthier lifestyles in the UK (79% Conservative, 64% Labour)

2. Fan Intelligence Index, 2019

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