Channel 4 takes wrap for 'Pepsi Challenge'
The programme, which aired in April and May this year, featured 12 amateur footballers drinking Pepsi during interviews, alongside appearances of footballers Thierry Henry, David Beckham and Ronaldinho.,
One complainant questioned the degree of influence that Pepsi had had on the editorial content of the programme, as all the three stars have contracts with Pepsi.
A giant Pepsi logo was also featured in the titles, on footballs used in the programme, on the players' kit, and during a sequence featuring a 'Pepsi' advertising poster design competition.
Channel 4 said that as the programme was an international sporting event, it was covered by a different set of rules, and branding had been kept to a minimum, with a significant amount of editing having been done to bring it in line with Channel 4’s editorial and compliance instructions.
Ofcom said: "While we recognise the extensive steps taken by the broadcaster at all stages of the production to exercise editorial control and minimise branding, we consider that a series such as this, which is funded by a sponsor with the apparent view to including its branding, is incompatible with the requirements of the Code."
Ofcom is currently reviewing the possibility of sponsorship of entire commercial radio and TV stations, subject to broadcasters being able to preserve editorial independence, protect the under-18s and ensure the audience is made fully aware of the sponsorship relationship.