McDonald’s drops sponsorship of Olympics

BY ROBERT CHANNICK
CHICAGO TRIBUNE/TNS

McDonald’s and the International Olympic Committee are ending a long-standing commercial partnership three years early.

The fast-food company is leaving the Olympics’ top sponsorship program immediately, giving up category-exclusive global marketing rights that were set to run through the 2020 Olympic Games.

McDonald’s became a top-tier partner in 1996 and has been an integral part of staging every Olympics since 1998. The company also is dropping its 40-year sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Highest level
The highest level of Olympic sponsorship, the Olympic Partners program, brought in more than $1 billion in revenue during the last four-year cycle in 2013-16, according to IOC financial reports.

Other partners in the program include Coca-Cola, Alibaba, Bridgestone, Dow Chemical, Samsung, Toyota and Visa.

“In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, we understand that McDonald’s is looking to focus on different business priorities,” said Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC television and marketing services. “For these reasons, we have mutually agreed with McDonald’s to part ways.”

The financial terms of the early termination were not disclosed.

Effective immediately
In addition to revenue, program partners provide goods, services and industry expertise for staging the summer and winter Olympics.

While the agreement to end its partnership is effective immediately, McDonald’s will operate Olympic Park and Olympic Village restaurants at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The IOC has no immediate plans to appoint a replacement in the retail food operations sponsorship category.

Long-term partnership
McDonald’s partnership began with the 1997 to 2000 Olympic cycle, which included the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

In 2012, McDonald’s signed an eight-year renewal, which was to run through the 2020 Games.

Beyond McDonald’s, all current top-tier partnership agreements go to 2020 or beyond, with Bridgestone, Panasonic and Toyota signed through 2024, Alibaba through 2028, and watchmaker Omega until 2032, according to the IOC.

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