Lausanne - McDonald's
has ended its longtime Olympic sponsorship dating back to 1976, the
International Olympic Committee announced on Friday.
The US fast food giant has supported the Olympics since the Montreal
Games and although the split takes place with immediate effect they will
continue to be a sponsor at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.
"The IOC and McDonald's have announced that they have mutually agreed
to bring their worldwide partnership to an end," an IOC statement
The burger chain, which is cutting its Olympic ties with three years
of its contract still to run, was one of the IOC's heavyweight "TOP"
partners along with the likes of Coca Cola, Visa, Bridgestone,
Panasonic, Toyota and Omega.
The IOC, giving the reasons behind the divorce, wrote: "In today’s
rapidly evolving business landscape, we understand that McDonald's is
looking to focus on different business priorities."
McDonald's global chief marketing officer Silvia Lagnado commented:
"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."
Whilst McDonald's first became an official backer at Montreal in 1976
and a TOP partner in 1997, the company's Olympic appetite was first
whetted at the 1968 Grenoble Winter Games.
McDonald's on their website explained how they "airlifted" burgers to
US Olympic athletes who had become "so homesick for American food" in
the French Alpine city.
Over the decades the fast food chain has contributed hundreds of
millions of dollars into the IOC's cash tills and had a popular presence
at every Olympic village since.
At last year's Rio Games their promotion of free meals for athletes triggered lengthy queues from sunrise to sunset.
One marketing guru suggested the split was logical given the emphasis on health-conscious diets.
scale of obesity and diet-related disease around the world is alarming,
and although we can’t put this at McDonald's door they must be aware
that sponsoring the Olympics has now become 'illogical' and even in many
ways 'counterproductive'," British sports marketing expert Patrick
Nally told AFP.
"McDonald's have many other ways of promoting themselves but the
logic of them sponsoring the Olympics does not now fit with
the current attitude to fast food," Nally added.
Looking ahead to their last association with the Olympic movement
next year, the IOC said: "McDonald's will continue to be a sponsor of
the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 with domestic marketing rights
in the Republic of Korea only.
"The company will deliver its Games-time operations, including restaurants in the Olympic Park and the Olympic Village."
The IOC said it had "no immediate plans to appoint a direct replacement in the retail food operations sponsorship category".
The IOC, with over 500 employees on its payroll, receives 70% of its
revenue from broadcasting rights, which for 2013-2016 rose by 7.4% to
$4.1 billion compared to 2009-2012, according to IOC
The bulk of the revenue is paid out to international sports federations, national Olympic committees, and Games organisers.