Lineker vows to stay with Walkers after obesity report

LONDON - Gary Lineker has vowed to keep on starring in advertising for Walkers Crisps, despite the brand being named in a Commons report on the obesity crisis facing Britain.

The 'Match of the Day' star and former England player has been the face of Walkers for 10 years, starring in a string of famous ads created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, including one in which he appeared with Paul Gascoigne where the temperamental footballer recreated his notorious tears scene from the 1990 World Cup semi-finals after England were knocked out.

Lineker, who is believed to have a £1.5m deal with Walkers lasting until 2006, has even lent his name temporarily to the brand, which rechristened its salt and vinegar flavour "Salt'n'Lineker".

While the ads are popular with television viewers, pressure groups are unhappy about the sportsman promoting junk food. He was even branded by one group, the Food Commission, as the greediest star in a poll of parents.

However, he has vowed to carry on with his endorsement. His spokesman said yesterday: "Gary plans to continue working with Walkers for as long as his services are required. Gary and his family are regular crisp eaters as part of a healthy balanced diet."

In the House of Commons health committee obesity report, the panel said it was "shocked" about advertising for Walkers Wotsits, also created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, which it said "deliberately undermined parental control" by exploiting pester power.

The publication of yesterday's report sparked headlines about a three-year-old child who died as a result of obesity.

The crisp maker, along with Cadbury, was also criticised for schemes that reward schools with equipment if they purchase crisps or chocolate.

While many parents, politicians and health groups are pushing for a ban on the advertising of junk food to children, the food and advertising industries are resisting the move, saying that it is incumbent on the government to instead promote healthy lifestyles, especially sports.

The report said: "We have recommended tighter controls on the advertising and promotion of foods to children, though we favour a voluntary approach in the first instance."

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