McD airs Olympics game plan

OAK BROOK Ill. McDonald’s Corp. disclosed details on Wednesday of its marketing tie-ins with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which range from new TV commercials to the opening of four restaurants at Olympic venues.

In addition, McDonald’s restaurants worldwide will introduce a number of new menu items during the games, said Mary Dillon, the company’s chief marketing officer. The planned products include a Beijing Burger in Latin America and a McFresh line in Russia featuring chicken and fish sandwiches and a shrimp salad. A “Flavor of the Games” menu in Australia will include five different burgers: the American, Euro, African, Asian and Australian.

U.S. units will promote the recently introduced Southern Style Chicken sandwiches by featuring Olympic athletes on packaging, Dillon said. U.S. marketing also will include TV spots and online initiatives.

In detailing the marketing program during a webinar Wednesday morning, McDonald’s said it would make an additional $100,000 donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities' Earthquake Relief in China fund as part of the Olympic sponsorship. The donation is being made in conjunction with “the spirit of community” represented by an online alternative-reality game called “The Lost Ring,” which has brought together more than 2 million players from 100 countries as they search for clues to solve ancient and modern Olympics mysteries, Dillon said.

“Lost Ring” was designed by famous game designer Jane McGonigal and is the “largest” alternative-reality game ever played, Dillon said.

The game will be solved “on the ground in Beijing,” she added. Dillon revealed that Olympic track-and-field gold medalist Edwin Moses has been a “secret” blogger helping players find 27 Olympic artifacts.

McDonald’s will open four new restaurants at the games, Dillon said. One will serve athletes in the Olympic Village, one will be located in the main press center, and two others will be open on the Olympic Green for spectators.

Each restaurant will serve familiar McDonald’s products as well as a local Chinese favorite called Corn Cups.

During the webinar, Dillon showed several of the chain’s new commercials. One shows athletes competing in various sports as “The More We Get Together” plays over the action. The spot ends with the athletes getting together in the Olympic Village McDonald’s restaurant. A spot that will air in Canada salutes the parents of athletes. An Australian ad records the delight of a boy who has been chosen to attend the games as part of the McDonald’s Champion Kids program.

More than 200 children from 40 countries were chosen for the program, which is a new feature of McDonald’s sponsorship.

Asked about the cost of Olympic-themed marketing and advertising, Dillon replied that “we can’t put a price tag on it,” adding that she expects the return on investment “will be great.”

McDonald’s China partnered with CCTV, the country’s largest TV network and official broadcaster of the 2008 Olympic Games, for a year-long program following the China McDonald’s Champion Kids and their activities leading up to and through the games.