An advertising campaign for crisps featuring images of scantily clad ‘rugby players’ has attracted more than 100 complaints from members of the public.
The ads for Hunky Dory crisps have also been deemed “tasteless, base and quite simply unacceptable” by furious Irish rugby chiefs.
The IRFU have called in lawyers and contacted the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, calling for the immediate withdrawal of the poster campaign which has been placed across Northern Ireland.
Union bosses are objecting to the tagline on the advert — “Proud Sponsors of Irish Rugby”.
Padraig Power, commercial and marketing director for IRFU, explained that the rugby organisation does not want to be connected with the approach taken by the snack food company, as the sport is “family focused”.
Mr Power added: “The claim that the product is a ‘Proud Sponsor of Irish Rugby' implies that the company is a significant sponsor of the game in this country, though the IRFU. This is absolutely untrue and a cynical ploy in an attempt to capitalise on the game’s popularity.
“By doing so it has the potential to undermine the legitimate claims of the many genuine sponsors and supporters of Irish Rugby whose investment has been a key element in the success of rugby at grass roots level throughout the country, and of our Provincial and National Teams”.
The snack food company have spent €520,000 (£452,500) on the two-week campaign. Raymond Coyle, chief executive officer of Largo Foods, said: “I can’t believe all this, the ads are a supposed to be a bit of fun. We support Navan Rugby Club and have done for years. We haven’t received the IRFU solicitor’s letter yet. I think this is a complete overreaction from them, but we will make a decision on what to do next once we know more.”
As the racy ad campaign is running on both sides of the border, two sets of industry organisations have received complaints from the public.
Matt Wilson from the Advertising Standards Authority in London said: “We have received a handful of complaints about the Hunky Dory ad campaign featuring the female rugby player. We are assessing the complaints and the ad to establish whether there are grounds for an investigation.”
Frank Goodman from the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland confirmed it has received 100 complaints in the last two days. He said: “Some of the complaints have been from Northern Ireland, so they are being passed to the ASA in London.
“Our code of practice requires us to hear both sides of the argument.”