McDonald’s ends Olympics sponsorship

Company to cease sponsorship of global sporting event after 41 years

McDonald’s Corp. advertisements have become as much a part of the Olympics in the past 40 years as gold medals and weird-looking mascots, but on Friday that tradition came to an end.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based burger giant and the International Olympic Committee have mutually agreed to part ways, three years before McDonald’s sponsorship of the Olympics was contracted to end.

McDonald’s said it made the decision as part of a broad analysis of the company’s business.

“As part of our global growth plan, we are reconsidering all aspects of our business and have made this decision in cooperation with the IOC to focus on different priorities,” McDonald’s global chief marketing officer Silvia Lagnado said in a joint statement with the Olympic Committee.

The decision ends a relationship that began in 1975. Over the years, McDonald’s has used the Olympics to run feel-good ads starring athletes, and also to give away Big Macs and highlight changes to Chicken McNuggets.

But the company has recently been overturning entrenched strategies. McDonald’s is refranchising restaurants after insisting for years on ownership of more than 20 percent of global locations. It started selling breakfast items after 10:30 a.m., after long holding the line against customer requests for Egg McMuffins in the afternoon.

It has also brought in numerous outsiders to play big management roles, including Lagnado, who was hired last year and who previously worked with Bacardi Limited and Unilever.

“We understand that McDonald’s is looking to focus on different business priorities,” Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC’s Television and Marketing Services, said in the statement. “For these reasons, we have mutually agreed with McDonald’s to part ways.”

The two sides agreed on financial terms in their separation. Details of those terms were kept confidential.

McDonald’s worldwide partnership will end immediately, but McDonald’s will remain a sponsor of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, with domestic marketing rights.

The IOC said it has “no immediate plans to appoint a direct replacement” in the retail food operations sponsorship category. The committee said it would review the category in the broader context of its Olympic marketing programs.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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