Give me a C, give me an H, give me an I, give me an N, give me an A! What's that spell? McDonald's, apparently

US fast food chain supports Chinese Olympic teams with cheering contest

By Published on .

SHANGHAI---McDonald's has adapted a quintessential aspect of American culture--cheerleading squads--to connect Chinese consumers with its sponsorship of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The U.S. fast food chain has set up bright red booths in and around major restaurant sites in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai where diners can record and submit cheers of support for the mainland’s Olympic athletes and teams. Their messages are automatically uploaded to McDonald’s microsite, www.mcdonalds.com.cn/minisite/2008. In other cities, Chinese can submit cheers in the form of pictures, audio files or online videos--created with computer recording equipment, mobile phones or digital cameras--to the same site.

The marketing program, called “I’m lovin’ China win!” in English, taps into the enthusiam and nationalism building in the mainland by offering McDonald’s customers a platform to voice their pride and support “as loudly and enthusiastically as possible,” said Shanghai-based Phyllis Cheung, McDonald’s chief marketing director for China. “Everyone in China can get involved and try their skill at becoming part of the official McDonald’s ‘Cheer for China’ team.”

Developed by DDB Guoan, the joint venture of Omnicom Group’s DDB Worldwide and Citic Group’s advertising subsidiary, Citic Guoan, and DDB’s below-the-line arm, Tribal DDB, the contest is the latest effort by the U.S. to raise its profile in China, where McDonald's still lags Yum Brands’ KFC chain.

KFC entered China earlier with an aggressive localization strategy led by Taiwanese managers who better understood mainland taste preferences. Today, Yum operates more than 1,800 KFC restaurants in over 400 Chinese cities. With support for the Olympics running high in China, McDonald’s hopes to even the playing field with promotions like the current contest that put consumers in control.

“The key insight behind this campaign is that a lot of Chinese consumers want to contribute to their Olympic teams and be part of the games, but they don’t know how to do it,” said Ms. Cheung. “We want to be an enabler for mass participation, so the whole idea of cheering for China came up. Also, most Olympic sponsors are selecting individual athletes to sponsor, but we wanted to do a team approach, since our brand is about team performance and team spirit.”

Cheers can be submitted to the McDonald’s site until Jan. 25, 2008. Online voting will run through March 2008, when ten finalists will be announced. They will attend a week-long cheering camp in China. At the camp, they will get professional voice, choreography and artistic training to sharpen their performances and learn skills like applying make-up. The camp will be documented online in reality-TV style webisodes. Viewers will vote a second time to pick five winners in real-time, and take Olympic-themed quizzes to win prizes.

The five winners will become members of McDonald’s Beijing 2008 Olympics cheering squad. The squad will tour around the country through August 2008, mainly in first-tier cities Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. They will also get five coveted tickets each to events during the 2008 Olympic Games, and take part in McDonald’s on-the-ground events during the games.

“Consumers can submit any cheer they want,” said Jesse Lin, DDB Guoan’s regional business director in Shanghai. But  McDonald’s is encouraging consumers to “keep it simple” and hopefully incorporate the restaurant company’s “I’m lovin’ it” tagline.

McDonald’s is promoting the integrated campaign through online media, in-store promotions, on-the-ground events and a viral TV campaign. Two one-minute videos, also created by DDB Guoan and Tribal DDB, have been seeded on McDonald’s Chinese site as well as local YouTube-like sites like Tudou.com, Youku.com and QQ.com. One portrays athletic consumers talking about their love for Chinese teams. The second features international consumers in countries like France and the U.K. talking about their enthusiasm for China’s Olympic athletes.

The contest is an extension of McDonald’s “Heroes’ choice: Go China” program revolving around four well-known Olympic athletes. They are Zhu Fangyu, a member of the Chinese national men’s basketball team, fencer Li Na, and synchronized swimming champions, Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting. McDonald’s is selling “Heroes’ choice” beef, chicken and fish products in its Chinese restaurants with branding around the four athletes.Continuing the Olympic theme, the company is giving away wrist bands in the five colors of the Olympic rings--yellow, red, green, black and blue.

With the Aug. 8 opening day less than eight months away, dozens of Olympic sponsors have kicked off marketing programs, which McDonald’s admits is creating clutter in China.

”We anticipate that a lot of brands will try to catch the Olympic train,” said Ms. Cheung. "Since McDonald’s is a popular family restaurant, we looked for a way that ordinary people could get involved without having to do too much. Our promotion is easy. Just shout out loud.”
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