McDonald’s announced its most comprehensive FIFA World Cup global sponsorship, featuring an array of consumer-focused programs that will engage football fans around the globe. World Cup 2010 marks McDonald’s fifth time as an Official Sponsor and the Official Restaurant of the tournament.

McDonald’s promises to bring the excitement of the world’s most-watched sporting event to life for millions of customers and employees in its 32,000-plus restaurants in more than 100 countries.

“We’re committed to providing our customers with numerous ways to participate in the excitement and passion of FIFA World Cup South Africa,” says McDonald’s global communications vice president Bridget Coffing at an international media briefing. “From specially-themed menu items, packaging, and restaurant promotions to innovative digital activities, community youth clinics, and team sponsorships, our goal is to connect our customers like never before with FIFA World Cup.”

As strong supporters of McDonald’s Player Escort program, French football legend and 1998 World Cup winning team member Marcel Desailly and South African football hero John “Shoes” Moshoeu joined McDonald’s to share their experiences on one of McDonald’s World Cup initiative. Through the program, 1,408 children (ages 6-10) are provided the opportunity to attend the tournament and walk hand-in-hand onto the pitch with their football heroes. Children will be selected by participating countries through activities that encourage them to be active and inspire their creativity. During the tournament, McDonald’s Player Escorts will tour cultural sites in South Africa, cultivate new friendships, and experience the thrill of FIFA World Cup.

“I am truly honored to be involved with McDonald’s Player Escort program,” Desailly says. “Through this initiative, McDonald’s gives children a life-changing opportunity and I’ve personally witnessed the positive impact of this experience.”

“Here in South Africa, McDonald’s Player Escort program made hundreds of dreams come true during the Confederations Cup 2009,” Moshoeu says. “I have been so touched by what this McDonald’s program does for our children and their families.”

As part of today’s kick-off, McDonald’s also unveiled its online games exclusively featured on FIFA’s Web site. McDonald’s new FIFA World Cup Predictor game connects global online football fans who use their knowledge and skills to predict which of the 32 FIFA World Cup teams will win game by game and round by round. With McDonald’s returning FIFA World Cup Fantasy Football game, football fans create their own digital teams of World Cup players. Both games will offer exclusive prizes throughout and at the conclusion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

Additionally, McDonald’s announced that a new McCafe is being built in the International Media Center (IMC) next to Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Opening in June 2010, the McCafe will feature a variety of specialty coffees and food choices for international and local media.

“We look forward to hosting the thousands of customers and media who will come to South Africa next year,” says Greg Solomon, managing director of McDonald’s South Africa. “We also will be part of the thrill leading up to the World Cup as our 130 local restaurants sponsor community activities throughout the country.”

More than 1,000 McDonald’s Player Escorts will be selected from South Africa. As host country, McDonald’s South Africa will also sponsor the McDonald’s Fan Dancer program, which provides young South African women, ages 16-25, with the unique opportunity to perform cheering routines at select matches during the 2010 World Cup.

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