McDonald’s has announced a multi-year global partnership with NBA superstar Yao Ming. The announcement was made during NBA All-Star 2004 festivities in Los Angeles.

“Yao Ming personifies what the McDonald’s brand is all about — a youthful, fun, dynamic spirit which connects to today’s customers and cultures,” said Larry Light, McDonald’s Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer, in a statement. “His unique, larger-than-life personality and appeal transcends borders and makes him a perfect fit for our new global outreach to consumers.”

“I have always been a big fan of McDonald’s ever since the first restaurant opened in China ten years ago,” said Yao. “To be a part of such a great brand with the ability to positively touch millions of people around the world is a real thrill for me.”

According to Light, Yao Ming will play a key role in McDonald’s global marketing plans, with emphasis in such areas as physical fitness and activity, Olympics initiatives, and ongoing “i’m lovin’ it” marketing events and customer communications. He will also lend his support to Ronald McDonald House Charities and its work on behalf of children worldwide.

Nicknamed the “Little Giant” in the NBA, Yao Ming has taken the United States by storm as a center on the Houston Rockets since his rookie year in 2002. Born and raised in Shanghai, he is the first number-one NBA draft pick to come from an international basketball league, and he stands as the tallest player ever taken with the first selection. Yao was named a starter for the Western Conference in both the 2003 and 2004 NBA All-Star Games.

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