Indonesia earns its first Olympic gold medals from badminton, one of the most popular sports in the country. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

PB Djarum Stops Badminton Auditions After Allegations of Stealth Marketing

SEPTEMBER 08, 2019

Jakarta. PB Djarum, one of the most famous badminton clubs in Indonesia owned by the Djarum cigarette company, has decided to stop auditions for its badminton scholarship program starting next year after a row with the country's children protection agency who accuses the club of exploiting children to promote the cigarette brand.  

PB Djarum, founded and backed by cigarette tycoon Budi Hartono, has run a young athlete development program for the past few decades.

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) raised the issue of child exploitation last month, saying the club's young talent auditions were stealthily used to promote the Djarum cigarette brand. 

The commission said children at the audition were told to wear t-shirts with the PB Djarum logo, a name long associated with one of the largest and most famous cigarette brands in Indonesia.

Involving children in cigarette promotion is illegal according to a 2012 government regulation on mitigating the effects of tobacco products. 

The commission and Lentera Anak Foundation, a non-governmental organization that advocates for children's rights, have called on PB Djarum to drop the Djarum name and visual imagery from the auditions. 

"It is impossible for us to get rid of the Djarum name [from the auditions]," Yoppy Rosimin, the director of sports services at the Djarum Foundation, said in a statement on Saturday.

Djarum Foundation manages its parent company's corporate social responsibility funds, most of which are given to cultural, educational and sports programs. 

"As they stand today, the events no longer feature too many Djarum-related materials," he said.

Yoppy said Djarum Foundation has offered to drop the Djarum name from the official audition title and remove t-shirts bearing the PB Djarum logo from the event.

But the child protection commission has not budged. 

"This year's audition will be our last," Yoppy said.

PB Djarum this year runs their young talent auditions in five cities starting in Bandung in July, followed by  Purwokerto, Surabaya and Solo before ending in Kudus – the company's hometown – in November.

The foundation will still continue its badminton athlete development program and resort to conventional scouting during regional badminton tournaments to identify new talents. 

"If we find a good young player, we will offer him or her [the scholarship]," Yoppy said.

PB Djarum puts their young athletes in a boarding house located within a high-tech sporting complex in Kudus, Central Java, where teenage athletes can train using international standard facilities.  

Badminton legend Susi Susanti, Indonesia's first Olympic gold medalist who now heads the athlete development and achievement division at the Indonesian Badminton Federation (PBSI), said PB Djarum's decision to stop the auditions will reduce the pool of talents in Indonesian badminton.  

"It will greatly undermine the development of young badminton athletes," Susi said in a statement.