KFC's sponsorship of the Rugby League World Cup has been slammed by Consumer NZ - but Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman says much sport wouldn't take place without such support.
The deal was announced yesterday, with obesity expert Dr Robyn Toomath and Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin both critical of it.
Chetwin said the sponsorship was to get children "addicted" to KFC.
"Rugby league as a game is largely supported by Maori and Pacific Islanders and these children are the children suffering most already," Chetwin told RNZ.
Coleman said he understood such concerns, but said food and drink manufacturers and sellers sponsored much sport in New Zealand.
"If you look at sport across New Zealand, food and drink manufacturers and providers sponsor a wide range of sports. And it is part of the reality that it would be difficult to fund sport in New Zealand without that sponsorship," said Coleman, also Sport and Recreation Minister.
"You have McDonald's sponsoring junior football in New Zealand.
"You have to look at it, do the benefits outweigh the potential costs. But the fact is a lot of sport in New Zealand right down to the community level wouldn't take place without that sponsorship."
Green Party health spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said Coleman had once again demonstrated he was on the side of junk food companies.
"They used to say if we didn't let tobacco companies sponsor sport, it wouldn't have enough funding. They were wrong," Genter said.
"Sport is so important to Kiwis, it will continue to be. The National Government needs to stop working for multinationals who profit off making people sick, and start protecting our people."
As the official partner of the world cup, KFC's branding will feature on the video referee board and on signage at matches.
The announcing press release also said RLWC2017 and KFC are "working together on a number of fan engagement initiatives and activations to be rolled out during the five-week tournament".
The World Cup will be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, with three pool matches in Papua New Guinea. It kicks off on October 27.