When it announced its sponsorship today via webcast of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, McDonald’s revealed its plans to center much of its sponsorship on a healthy, active lifestyle for kids through its new Champions of Play for the Olympic Games initiative.
The initiative will be multifaceted, but will bring hundreds of kids from around the world to the Olympics to spend time with athletes and learn about healthy eating.
In an exclusive interview with QSR, Dean Barrett, global marketing officer for McDonald’s Corporation, and Kevin Newell, global chief brand officer, say the new initiative is the biggest play program McDonald’s has ever executed.
“This goes straight to the heart of McDonald’s commitment to children’s well-being, and our commitment to make sure we get kids up and moving and having a clear and better understanding how to make smart choices around food and the value of play,” Newell says.
The Champions of Play initiative will be represented by global ambassador Dara Torres, a 12-time-Olympic-medal-winning swimmer who was 41 and a new mother when she competed in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
“She’s so committed to the whole ideal and values of a balanced, active lifestyle, which includes play,” Newell says.
Up to 200 children ages 6–10 from around the world will be invited to travel to London with a guardian to participate in the Champions of Play initiative. While there, the children will be able to tour and play with athletes in the Olympic venues, attend Olympic events, learn about healthy eating through chef demonstrations, and tour London’s historic landmarks.
The Champions of Play initiative will also be activated across the globe. Barrett says McDonald’s will include material, such as healthy-eating and active-play tips, on Happy Meals during the Olympics.
There will also be market-specific activities for children, as well as a website that will “allow kids to interact with the Olympic games and also to learn fun things and activities they can do to learn to eat smarter and play harder on an ongoing basis,” Barrett says.
“I think what we recognize is … to really take this opportunity to talk to kids in a much bigger, broader sense, on a global stage, about the opportunity to eat smart and be active,” he says. “Not only as children, but as family groups.”
According to the McDonald’s webcast, there will be four McDonald’s restaurants in London’s Olympic Village staffed by 2,000 of the company’s best crewmembers. Over the course of 29 days—including 12 days of training and 17 days of the Games themselves—the four McDonald’s will serve 1.75 million meals to athletes, staff, media, and fans.
Along with the Champions of Play initiative, McDonald’s will also roll out a local ingredient–focused program that lets customers and media see where McDonald’s UK food comes from. The McDonald’s UK Open Farms program will spotlight the 17,500 British and Irish farms that make up the company’s local supply chain.
“I think that is a very, very important initiative, and I think it’s going to deliver huge benefits from the standpoint of transparency, as well as providing all customers the assurance that McDonald’s food is of the highest quality,” Newell says. “We’ve taken great care in the supply chain to ensure the highest levels of food safety [and] food that they can count on being great each and every time.”
This will be McDonald’s ninth consecutive Olympic Games as the official restaurant partner. Barrett says every host city has unique features that McDonald’s likes to highlight through its sponsorship.
“Beijing was an outstanding Olympic program and opportunity for McDonald’s, as was Vancouver,” he says. “I think London is going to be extremely unique in terms of, first of all, its location—it’s the largest city that we’ve been involved in with the Olympics directly. What they’re doing to bring the Olympics to life, and our UK company, is just outstanding.”
The 2012 Olympic Games will be held July 27 to August 12, 2012, in London.
By Sam Oches