McD's Warms Up for Olympics Performance

Global Chief Marketer Mary Dillon Promises 'Best Activation Ever'

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LOS ANGELES ( -- With just about a month to go, McDonald's is getting ready for the Olympics.

In a webcast with reporters last week, global chief marketer Mary Dillon laid out the marketer's Olympic plans, including the company's on-the-ground activities, names of featured U.S. athletes and an update on an alternate-reality game the company has started in more than 100 countries.

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While Ms. Dillon declined to quantify her company's spending to support the Olympic sponsorship, she said, "We have our biggest and best activation ever this year, and we know the return on investment will be great for us." McDonald's has partnered with the Olympics for 40 years.

In the U.S., the fast feeder is launching a website as part of an effort to bolster its newly launched Southern-style chicken sandwich. Beginning in August, consumers will be able to create pictures with their faces on an Olympian's body at

McDonald's has also selected nine athletes to be featured on packaging. U.S. marketing director John Lewicki said it was a challenge to choose athletes well in advance of the Olympic trials. The key, he said, was selecting athletes who had a chance to win gold and have some from traditional sports as well as newer ones. The company settled on runner Tyson Gay, gymnast Shawn Johnson, BMX racer Donny Robinson, swimmer Ryan Lochte, basketball player Dwight Howard, wrestler Patricia Miranda, weightlifter Melanie Roach and Paralympians Tatyana McFadden and Marlon Shirley.

'The labyrinth'
McDonald's entered new territory this year with its alternate-reality game. Ms. Dillon said "The Lost Ring," which is a product of McDonald's and global digital agency AKQA, has already drawn more than 2 million gamers in 100 countries. Players have blogged and created wikis to share information, which has led them to discover a forgotten Olympic sport called "the labyrinth." The sport is played by running through a maze blindfolded.

The game will conclude on the ground in Beijing, and Ms. Dillon introduced a heretofore anonymous blogger who has been assisting gamers. Legendary hurdler Edwin Moses will be involved through the end of the game. "It's been a fantastic experience," Mr. Moses said during the webcast. "I look forward to assisting the players in the final game."

Ms. Dillon said the company will also make an additional $100,000 donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities' earthquake relief in China upon the game's conclusion.

As part of its Olympic sponsorship, McDonald's is bringing 200 children from 40 countries to Beijing. The winners have been chosen through a variety of games and contests in their host countries. Some, like Australia's Angus McMillan, may be used in TV ads. Ms. Dillon said since these marketing decisions are made on a regional basis, it hasn't been determined how many children will be used in ads.

Team abroad
The fast feeder has also selected a 1,400-member "champion crew" from its restaurants around the globe to work in the company's four restaurants serving the Olympic Village. The restaurants will have an "open door" policy where visitors can walk in and see how food is prepared by the star team members.

The crew are also invited to create videos in which they express their excitement and Olympic spirit in five words or fewer. McDonald's is selecting top videos to go up on next week. Consumers can vote on their favorites and the winners will receive cash prizes.

A number of global TV spots will also be part of the McDonald's marketing push, including one by DDB, Chicago, directed by Joe Pytka. The spot features athletes competing in various sports to the tune of "The More We Get Together." McDonald's is also using the Olympics to push its "healthier" kids fare. One such global spot, Ms. Dillon said, from Leo Burnett Chicago, features chicken nuggets and the great lengths kids will go to get them.
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