The silence is as deafening as it is puzzling. When Cadbury was announced as the official confectionery and ice-cream sponsor of London 2012 it passed with barely a murmur from the anti-obesity set. Why?

Perhaps the nation's moralists were clearing their throats in preparation for some Ross and Brand-bashing.

But Cadbury is certainly an easy target. After all, according to the London 2012 website, its 'Everyday Sport' campaign aims to battle against obesity in the countdown to London 2012. The question of whether a confectionery company should use the Olympic logo to flog chocolate is surely cause for debate?

Cadbury also has form for mixing sport with chocolate in an unpalatable fashion.

Its 'Get Active - Free Sports Kit 4 Schools' campaign, which was launched in 2003, was widely criticised for enticing children to scoff unhealthy amounts of chocolate. Cadbury was forced to hire a specialist PR consultancy to shore up its reputation after the scheme, which encouraged children to collect vouchers from chocolate bars to get free school sports equipment, was vilified in the press.

"This is an irresponsible ploy to encourage unhealthy eating among kids," the Consumers' Association (now Which?) fumed.

"Misguided, stupid and an inherent contradiction" was the view of the Food Commission. And just last month, the same organisation even disputed Cadbury's right to display the Royal Warrant on its products. "It is questionable whether the Queen should be granting her Warrant to such products," sniffed a statement.

Yet this time around, Which? staunchly refuses to comment on the deal, which will allow Cadbury to display the 2012 logo on its products. "We only comment on our research," is the line from the association, which in July also fingered Cadbury for continuing to promote its products to children online.

The Food Commission, never slow to rush out a statement, has also remained tight-lipped. Is nobody thinking of the children?

"The deal has yet to filter through the public health community and there's likely to be more of an impassioned debate nearer the time of the Olympics," says Annie Anderson, director of centre for public health nutrition research at the University of Dundee.

Of more immediate concern to health campaigner is the Ofcom ban on children's advertising, says Ian MacDonald, professor of metabolic physiology at the University of Nottingham. "Ofcom regulations are not as tough as campaigners would like. A lot needs to be done before you need to worry about the Olympics," he says, adding that in an ideal world, foods high in salt, fat and sugar would not be advertised at all.

Governmental thumbs up
The Government has been happy to laud Cadbury's involvement. Not surprising when you consider the £9bn bill of London 2012 and the vital role corporate sponsors will play in ensuring the Games are on budget. It is estimated £650m of its operating budget will come from sponsorship alone. And with the Olympic Village reportedly set to be nationalised, Cadbury's involvement provides a shot in the arm.

"The London Organising Committee depends on private sector investment," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Culture Media and Sport. "It shows the appeal of London 2012 and the strength of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games' commercial programme that even in these difficult economic times the Games are attracting high-profile sponsors ."

The Government also appeared to confirm a softening of its position this week when Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo addressed stakeholders on the Government's Healthy Eating Code. "We wanted to bring you all together to celebrate what you've already achieved," she said, adding: "I'm delighted the industry has cut out the practice of advertising sweets and sugary foods during children's TV programmes."

But the Government was not letting up. Calling for a review of portion sizes, she added: "We must do more to reduce marketing of unhealthy foods to children elsewhere - and that includes kids promotions on the internet, at the cinema and in magazines," she said.

Yet the Olympics was conspicuous by its absence. Is the Government undermining its aims to give Cadbury a free ride? And equally, is this a neat way for Cadbury to sidestep the Ofcom regulation, which is "to limit children's exposure to television advertising of food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar". Exposure doesn't come much greater than the Olympic Games.

The Government insists neither accusation is fair or accurate. LOGOC points to Cadbury's track record of supporting sporting events, including the Commonwealth Games and the Sydney Olympics, as evidence it markets its goods responsibly.

The fit between Cadbury and the Olympics is a natural one, adds Cadbury head of corporate affairs Alex Cole, pointing out that former Cadbury chairman Sir Adrian Cadbury is an ex-Olympian.

"The Olympics is about celebrating fun, pleasure, joy. With our heritage we think we can play an important role in reaching into the community, to connect British people with the Games and help create the life-affirming experience we all want the Games to be, as we did when we organised the volunteers at the Sydney Olympics."

With Mars having sponsored both Beijing and Vancouver, Cole also argues it would have been "crazy" for a foreign confectionery company to have sponsored London 2012.

Anderson believes that to win over the NGOs, Cadbury will have to think carefully about how it markets its Olympics involvement.

"It would be difficult to have more promotions [for Cadbury products] without attracting criticism, especially with so many people in this country being overweight," she says.

Jonathan Gabay, director of agrees. "They could turn this into a positive," he says. " Cadbury must be cautious and show it is not just giving money. It needs to give more and send out a positive and healthy message to youngsters."

Cole promises Cadbury won't let the show down. "It is early days in terms of our planning. It doesn't extend much beyond confirming what we won't be doing," she says in a reference to those voucher schemes. "But we're committed to the need for more people to get active."

London 2012 deals
McDonalds and Coca-Cola are world sponsorship partners. And like Cadbury, their products will be sold at the Games. However, they have these rights to all the Olympic Games, including the Beijing Games this year and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, unlike Cadbury. 

The London organising committee can also generate revenue by negotiating deals with companies in the UK. It is estimated that £650m of London 2012's operating budget will come from sponsorship.

Cadbury will be the only brand of confectionery and ice cream on sale in the Olympic park. It also has the right to use the London 2012 logo on its brands.