Missed Opportunity for McDonald’s

By Jim Andrews Nov 30, 2012

Missed Opportunity for McDonald’s

You would think the marketing team at McDonald’s USA would have learned something from the backlash the Golden Arches suffered from its sponsorship presence at last summer’s London Olympic Games.

Apparently not.

In announcing its new multi-year agreement yesterday to become the official restaurant sponsor of the NFL, the company’s U.S. marketers turned a blind eye to concerns raised about McDonald’s Corp.’s participation in the Int’l Olympic Committee’s TOP global sponsorship program.

Despite an avalanche of negative public and media attention focused on the dichotomy of a company known best for high-calorie, low-nutritional-value menu items sponsoring a celebration of athletic achievements of some of the most physically fit people in the world, McDonald’s communications around its latest sports sponsorship offered nothing to address those issues. And sure enough, the company already is being taken to task in social media and in the press.

Instead of announcing a platform to tie in with the NFL’s Play 60 anti-obesity program or highlighting its healthy menu items, the sole activation mentioned in the McDonald’s press release is a run-of-the-mill sales promotion tying purchase of a $4.99 20-piece Chicken McNuggets meal to a chance to win tickets to the Pro Bowl.

To borrow an over-used but appropriate pop-culture phrase: “Hey McDonald’s, 1985 called. It wants its activation back.”

In all seriousness, there is nothing wrong with a promotion touting a menu item. Sponsors do them because they work. And perhaps McDonald’s has plans to become involved in Play 60 or something similar. But completely ignoring the obesity issue at the time of the announcement is a huge misstep.

To borrow another popular phrase, and a football-related one at that: “C’mon man!”


backlash pro sports restaurant sponsorship strategy sports activation


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Jim Andrews

About the Author

A 30-year sponsorship industry veteran, Jim is responsible for developing and sharing thought-leadership content based on ESP Properties’ groundbreaking work in the areas of sponsorship strategy, valuation, measurement, digital content, data-driven marketing and fan engagement.

In addition to identifying key trends and delivering his unique insights into the critical issues facing rightsholders and their commercial partners, Jim is the chairman of the Annual Sponsorship Conference, responsible for the program and speakers, as well as hosting and delivering the event’s opening address. He also is responsible for the company’s annual report and forecast of overall sponsorship spending, as well as its compilation of biggest spending companies and annual industry surveys.

A frequent media commentator and guest, Jim has been a featured speaker at hundreds of sports, entertainment and marketing conferences around the world.



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Jessi Sanchez 12/3/2012 1:48 PM
Interesting post. McDonald's are one of the best marketers out there, to see them align around probably one of the weakest NFL platforms (Pro Bowl) and to also battle with Papa John's in the restaurant space is slightly puzzling. But knowing McD's, they probably have something up their sleeve.
Jim Andrews 12/3/2012 12:48 PM
Thanks for the feedback, Fiona. To clarify, I intended the post to question McDonald's choice of the Pro Bowl as it's NFL promotional platform. I agree that the McNuggets promo may be a boost for the considerably ailing game, but that would seem to be a win for the NFL, not McDonald's. If the company had limited options of initiatives to choose from, it should have chosen one that it could use to promote its positioning around making nutritionally "informed choices." That would be a relevant platform for a sports sponsorship.
Fiona Green 12/2/2012 3:59 PM
Hi Jim, I enjoy reading your posts but on this one, think you may have been too quick off the mark. The press release says McD's are sponsors of the ProBowl -- that doesnt necessarily mean they can align themselves with other NFL initiatives. McD's are seasoned sports sponsors -- if there was a bigger play here, they'd have made it. The McNuggets promotion is a great way for the ProBowl to get some great publicity -- if you consider how many customers McD's serve every day and how many of them will now see the ProBowl marketing....the NFL would never have allocated that level of marketing spend to this competition.

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