“This decision was taken in light of the negative publicity associated with allegations of corruption and doping in sport made against the IAAF,” Nestlé said in a statement this week.
In 2012 Nestlé became the main sponsor of the programme in a five-year deal seeking to engage millions of children worldwide in a healthier lifestyle.
Yet this week the food and drink giant said it was ending the partnership with immediate effect amid fears accusations against the IAAF would “negatively affect [its] reputation and image”.
An independent report from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) released in January found evidence of state-sponsored doping within Russia and institutional corruption within the IAAF under former president Lamine Diack. The WADA accused the IAAF of having "no real appetite" to deal with the problem.
Nestlé's decision follows a similar retreat by sportswear behemoth Adidas, which backed out of its 11-year sponsorship deal last month, bringing the deal to an end four years early.
Terms and conditions
New president Lord Sebastian Coe - largely held up as the face of reform following the scandal - reportedly told UK media he was "angered" by Nestlé’s decision.
"Our legal teams have clearly taken a view that we need to be tough about this," he told the UK’s BBC. "And we will be.”
Asked if it had violated its agreement, Nestlé told us the contract had been terminated early due to “a material breach of the IAAF’s obligations under the Memorandum of Understanding” signed by the pair.
“A payment of $500,000 [€444,700] was due on 01 February 2016, however we have decided not to make this payment and to end our partnership arrangement,” a spokesperson for the company said.
Doing it for the kids
Since the fallout Coe has criticised Nestlé’s apparent lack of commitment to the children in the programme.
"They came to the table because they claimed they had a profound interest in the lives of young people. I guess that's what we're left to question at this moment," the BBC reported him as saying.
However, Nestlé has rejected the slight saying it reached over eight million children through its own nutrition and physical education programme last year.
“Critics of our decision say that ending the partnership with the IAAF will negatively affect children. There is no question that we remain committed to children’s nutrition and health, notably through our Nestlé Healthy Kids Programme.”
Following the WADA report controversy, Coe has spoken of a need for a clean start for athletics.
“Be under no illusion about how seriously I take these issues. I am president of an international federation which is under serious investigations and I represent a sport under intense scrutiny. My vision is to have a sport that attracts more young people. The average age of those watching track and field is 55 years old. This is not sustainable," he said in January.
“The key to making that vision a reality is creating a sport that people once more trust in. Athletics must be a sport that athletes, fans, sponsors, media and parents alike know is safe to compete in on a level playing field and one in which clean effort is rewarded and celebrated.”
The kids' athletics programme had planned to reach a further 15 countries, training 360 lecturers, instructing 8,640 physical education teachers, with three million children participating by the end of 2016.
It is unclear what impact Nestlé's withdrawal will have on those plans.
Switzerland-headquartered Nestlé reported an annual turnover of CHF 109.7 billion (€99.85bn) in 2010 with more than 280,000 employees worldwide.