Dec. 13, 2016. CCFC to Niantic: Don’t Use Pokémon GO to Lure Kids to Starbucks

For Immediate Release

David Monahan, (617) 896-9397

CCFC to Niantic: Don’t Use Pokémon GO to Lure Kids to Starbucks

December 13, 2016 — BOSTON, MA — Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is calling on Niantic, Inc., the producers of Pokémon GO, to protect children who play the popular game from commercial exploitation and junk food marketing. Niantic announced last week that 7,800 Starbucks stores in the United States have become PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms, and will serve a new purple Pokémon GO-themed Frappuccino. 

“It’s wrong to lure children to a sponsor’s location under the guise of playing a game,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director of CCFC. “Niantic and Starbucks should exclude children from this sneaky marketing designed to hook players on sugar-saturated, high calorie drinks.”

Pokémon GO is a location-based augmented reality (AR) game which requires players to visit specific real world places—called “PokéStops” and “Pokémon Gyms”—in order to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures. The partnership with Starbucks in the U.S. follows Niantic’s marketing scheme in Japan, where all McDonald’s restaurants were hotspots in the game and kids were enticed with Pokémon Happy Meal toys. It also coincides with a promotion that turns 10,500 Sprint locations across the U.S. into PokéStops and Pokémon Gyms. 

More than 7,000 people have signed petitions urging Niantic to not send children under 13 to sponsored PokéStops or Pokémon Gyms, or to use any information about a child’s location or gameplay to deliver targeted advertisements. CCFC sent a letter to Niantic today, along with the petition signatures. The letter notes that since children under thirteen have already been identified by the Pokémon GO registration process, it should be technically easy to exclude children from all location-based marketing. 

Starbucks sells many high-caffeine beverages which are not appropriate for children. The Starbucks Pokémon GO Frappuccino has no caffeine but is loaded with fat and sugar: a “venti” with whipped cream contains 540 calories, including 160 calories from fat; 86 grams of sugar (the equivalent of 21.5 teaspoons of sugar); and 11 grams of saturated fat  (55% of the FDA’s recommended daily value).