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Includes World Tour Sponsorship, TV Ads, Merchandise Tie-ins

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- McDonald's Corp. today announced it signed R&B music group Destiny's Child to be the new voice for its ongoing "I'm Lovin' It" global advertising campaign.

"Our worldwide 'I'm Lovin' It' campaign

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gets another shot of high-energy excitement with this blockbuster partnership," said Larry Light, McDonald's executive vice president and global chief marketing officer.

News of a pending deal between the fast-food chain and the pop stars was first reported in the Sept. 13 print edition of Advertising Age.

Sponsoring world tour
The deal closed only late last week, executives close to the matter said. McDonald's will be the title sponsor of the group's 2005 worldwide tour, called "Destiny Fulfilled and lovin' it," and the R&B trio will star in TV commercials and merchandising around the world. They also will serve as ambassadors for World Children's Day, McDonald's global fundraising effort for Ronald McDonald House Charities, that takes place Nov. 20. The tour starts in April and will feature 70 concerts in 50 cities worldwide.

The group's members, Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, had been performing solo for the last three years but reunited as Destiny's Child earlier this year.

"This partnership with Destiny's Child is, for us, going to be the broadest activation and broadest partnership we've had in the entertainment world," said Bill Lamar, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA.

Mr. Lamar declined to spell out financial terms, but said the singers would also make appearances at restaurants and other company-sponsored events, giving an "unprecedented" ability to have customers experience McDonald's. "We re going to get great value, and Destiny's Child feels they're getting great value as well," he said. The group will be connected to McDonald's franchisees and employees through webcasts, audio and video messaging, meet-and-greets, and concert ticket giveaways.

McDonald's is scheduled to use a song from the group's upcoming record, due out Nov. 16, as the backdrop of the Destiny's Child ad and promotional campaigns. The women also will record a three-part harmony version of the campaign's catchy "I'm Lovin' It" tagline tune, which they previewed a cappella at a morning news conference attended by entertainment press and dozens of children.

Plans also are in the works for the group to do a song especially for next year's World Children's Day, with possible distribution through the chain's outlets. Money from the song would go to the company's children's charities.

Justin Timberlake
The company chose Destiny's Child because of the group's international popularity and ability to speak directly to the desired demographic -- the youthful consumer, said Dean Barrett, McDonald's senior vice president of global brand business. The level of involvement that the artists will have will go far beyond that of the campaign's initial spokesman, Justin Timberlake.

"Justin was a phenomenal part of our brand story," Mr. Barrett said. "He was a big part of bringing us back to music in a big way. This is the next new chronicle in our brand story."

McDonald's franchisees had groused that Mr. Timberlake restricted the chain in using him in TV spots and appearances, especially with food-and-clown icon Ronald McDonald. McDonald's executives downplayed any friction, but during the press event the girl group yukked it up with the clown and made concerted efforts to come up with anecdotes about their personal McDonald's experiences.

Already hawking the foods
The ladies showed their willingness to hawk McDonald's food during the session's question-and-answer period, talking about their favorite McDonald's memories and foods. Ms. Rowland said she enjoys egg and cheese McGriddles and Chicken Selects "seasoned to perfection," while Ms. Williams reminisced about eating her first whole Big Mac at age 12, while Ms. Knowles said the ladies ate salads every day during the recording of their upcoming album. McDonald's earlier tested Ms. Knowles in focus groups for a pending summer 2005 launch of fruit and walnut salads.

"With Beyonce's favorite food being salads, you can rest assured she'll be working with all our salad line," Mr. Lamar later told Adage.com. "Not only Beyonce, but Michelle and Kelly gave a great view of the fact that our menu has broad appeal. They'll be associated with our entire product line."

Four marketing languages
The deal fills out the one platform in what McDonald's is calling its four marketing "languages" -- music, fashion, entertainment and sports. In spelling out activities in these four areas, Mr. Lamar said McDonald's also would begin distributing branded athletic and urban wear as part of its fashion platform to appeal to young consumers. Among its larger initiatives, he said the Golden Arches would distribute its own line of vintage "throwback jerseys" from its High School All American Basketball Game.

"Throwback jerseys are one of the hottest fashion trends," he said, noting that 90% of the major basketball stars in college and the NBA have played in the eponymous amateur tournament during the past 27 years. Each player has their own jerseys with their own number and name on the back. He declined to provide additional detail, but among the NBA stars who have played in the tournament are LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal.

McDonald's kicks off its annual Monopoly promotion Oct. 12 with Best Buy with a launch event featuring Latin music singer Yahir and The Apprentice runner-up Kwaame Jackson. Mr. Lamar cited these as examples of how the marketer is tapping the entertainment platform.

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