McDonald's takes heat for Olympics sponsorship

Not exactly a beacon of healthful living, the fast-food giant is criticized for linking its name to athletic contests.

By InvestorPlace Jan 13, 2012 11:24AM

McDonald's (MCD) once again is a top sponsor of the Olympic Games. But not everyone is lovin' it.

On Thursday, McDonald's announced it would continue its sponsorship through 2020, a deal estimated at about $100 million per four years, or for every pair (winter and summer) of Olympic Games.


But for years, various organizations have protested McDonald's sponsorship of the Olympic Games on the basis of hypocrisy. Many critics are galled by the notion that a restaurant known for flipping fatty burgers and greasy fries is joined at the hip with one of the foremost showcases of athleticism and fitness. Numerous protests are planned for the 2012 Games.


Here are the sponsorship details: In addition to its role in this year's Games in London, McDonald's now will gain exposure in Sochi, Russia (2014), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2016), and Pyeongchang, South Korea (2018). The 2020 Summer Games location has yet to be determined. 


In a statement, McDonald's president and COO Don Thompson said, "In keeping with McDonald's ongoing commitment to children's well-being, we will continue to communicate with kids about the importance of balanced eating and active lifestyles through our partnership with the Games."


However, it's the topic of health that has landed McDonald's in hot water.


A former Olympian is particularly outraged at one of the 2012 initiatives for London. McDonald's will build its largest location ever -- a 30,000-square-meter, two-story behemoth capable of seating 1,500 customers -- in the Olympic Park. 2004 boxing silver medalist Amir Khan has criticized organizers, telling the Daily Mail: "It is clearly sending the wrong signal to kids and young people. If we want them to be healthy and educate them to eat healthily, we need to think about approaching them in a different way, especially around sport."


Also, McDonald's position as the exclusive "meal brand" of the games has drawn much ire across Britain for putting an American face on the food. Other chains must remove their labels and/or change packaging on food sold throughout several Olympic sites, according to The Guardian, meaning the country's mix of British, Indian and other ethnic fare will go mostly unnoticed.


Coca-Cola (KO) has a similar exclusivity deal with the Games as the sole provider of nonalcoholic drinks. However, spectators will be able to take their own drinks into the various Olympic venues.


McDonald's isn't alone in drawing ire as an Olympic sponsor. In December, the Indian Olympic Association executive board planned to protest Dow Chemical's (DOW) sponsorship of the Games. Dow in 2001 bought Union Carbide India Limited, which owned a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, that leaked toxins and killed thousands in subsequent years. While Dow had no direct connection to the incident, protestors have decried the mere link between the two companies.


Branding is a slippery thing for a company. After all, it's hard to tell if there's a direct benefit from any advertising -- on TV, for an event, or in a magazine. But one thing is clear: It's all about the brand, and if McDonald's is bringing bad press upon itself with this sponsorship, it will be a double whammy for the company. Not only is it wasting ad dollars, it is tarnishing its reputation needlessly.

Here are 3 other restaurants trying to stand out to consumers.


- Kyle Woodley,

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Jan 13, 2012 1:29PM
I see nothing wrong with them sponsoring the Olympics.  Just eating McDonalds every now and then doesn't make someone fat.  Eating it constantly with other fatty, greasy food with little to no exercise makes you fat.  It's not the company's fault people don't know how to eat right.
Jan 13, 2012 1:39PM

How stupid is our world getting??????? We should be thankful that McDonalds will sponsor the Olympics.  The ones that are opposing this probably were/are obese and want to blame it on McDonalds and other fast food industries. Why can't people just take responsibility for themselves; if you don't want to eat McDonalds don't, but let everyone else make their own choices.  THeir are many more important battles to fight!

Jan 13, 2012 1:39PM
Yeah because it's not like beef isn't a good supply of protein... nor does McDonalds offer healthier substitutes for their fries. Oh wait... they do.

Seriously, people should really stop trying to blame fast food chains for their obesity and start looking in the mirror. I've eaten fast food on a regular basis since my freshman year of high school, a lot of kids do... and yet we still manage to exercise right and stay in shape.

Don't blame McDonalds for your obesity when you're sitting there putting down two or three Big Macs a sit in along with your large fries and soda.


They do not just sell hamburgers and fries there are apple dippers, fruit and walnut salads, bottled water, vitamin water, a whole line of salads, and you can order your hamburger without meat if you are so worried about the grease. (They also do not flip the burgers at mcdonalds) ((=

And you can ask to substitute your fries with a side salad.

I have worked there for almost 5 years eating there 4 days a week and have only gained 10 pounds. And I do yoga of the morning and of the night.

So I am pretty sure McDonalds is trying to promote food with exercise by sponsoring the Olympics.

---Just my opinion!---


Jan 13, 2012 2:52PM
Mc Donald's is a clean family fast food establishment. You have a choice there of eating a belly bomb or a healthy salad. You can have a huge drink or a small drink or they will give you a cup for free water.  You can have a small meal or a large one. Stop blaming them for your own bad choices.I say   Thank you McDonald's for helping make the Olympics possible with you unselfish act of being a sponsor   .  When I want a big Mac I will come on in and get one


Jan 13, 2012 12:26PM
I guess the Fish 'n' Chips Association or London Broil Union in the UK couldn't come up with 100 million huh...
Jan 13, 2012 2:57PM
I wish people would stop blaming fast food for the USA's obesity.  We have an over abundance of food here.   People will eat whatever they want, whenever they want in the USA. That is why they are fat.   I know because I used to be fat, now I have self control.   I eat what I need to eat and not everything I want.  It is not McDonald's, Jack in the Box, Carls Jr. or any other fast food place that is making people fat.  It is the lousy food choices people make that makes them fat.   Its like anything else in life, make good choices and you will benefit from them.  Make bad choices and suffer for it.   If you're fat its your fault.
Jan 13, 2012 1:48PM
I am curious as to who these "Health Advocates" are? And where do they propose to raise the money lost when McDonald's is not a sponsor?
Should we close the theme parks of Busch Gardens since obviously they are brainwashing all into drinking their beers?

Are we truly just sheep?

Jan 13, 2012 3:52PM
Jan 13, 2012 2:14PM

Mcdonalds is not evil. McDonalds does not make people fat, fat people make themselves fat.

McDonalds is a place to go have SOME tasty food once or so a month not daily or weekly like many people unfortunately think they need to go.  

Jan 13, 2012 3:30PM

I guess the protestors feel that local organizations such a McDonald's can sponsor their kid's hockey, softball, soccer teams, buy them uniforms,....oh... and then if their child gets real sick...well then it's ok to have places such as McDonald's sponsor the Ronald McDonald Houses to help those families, and oh...if their local charity or church or kids school event would like a donation such as orange drinks for "after the school play",  or ice cream cones tickets for the easter egg hunt, etc...etc....etc...'s ok to go ahead and accept their generousity in those cases?  But don't sponsor the olympics?  Man...I thought we lived in AMERICA and we still had choices!!  I wonder if the Olympics did NOT have sponsors or donations from places like McDonalds, then what the heck would they say?...Man they are too cheap or greedy??? or what?

Jan 13, 2012 2:51PM
Sick of hearing these about these self righteous comments. Last I knew, McDonalds and other fast food places have healthy choices to eat. Today, I may eat a parfait, tomorrow, it's a Big Mac! Its my choice as an American. Find something else to talk about. The last thing the government needs to do is tell us what we can or cannot eat.
Jan 13, 2012 1:59PM
It seems that no matter who sponsors the games, it comes down to one thing: MONEY. McDonald's is willing  to put up the money, good for them. As Kim stated, You do not have to buy a burger & fries. They do have salads & other healthier food. You have the right to order your food the way you prefer. It doesn't matter which fast food chain sponsors the games, some one or group will find a way to complain.
I have yet to hear from any other business offering $100 million. If you have an alternative food chain, that you want sponsoring the games & $100 million, then please step forward.

Jan 13, 2012 1:35PM
"Health advocates" aka doinks!  Get a life!
I don't get the problem here?  McDonald's sponsors the Olympics and this is bad because.....?

I sponsor the Olympics with a monthly donation and, sometimes, eat at McDonald's.  Should I stop my sponsorship also?  

Stop having problems where there are none. The more, the merrier!
Jan 13, 2012 3:47PM
Maybe the Protesters should cough up $100 million dollars and sponsor the Olympic Games until 2020 themselves, if not Shut the heck up!
Jan 13, 2012 1:47PM
I think the "health advocates" need to put their money where their mouth is!  McDonalds continue to financially support community activities throughout the world and I for one thank them for their involvement in financially supporting the games. Do you want "fries" (apple slices) with that??
Jan 13, 2012 1:43PM

"Don't blame McDonalds for your obesity when you're sitting there putting down two or three Big Macs a sit in along with your large fries and soda."



Correction Stephen, DIET soda!!!!

Jan 13, 2012 2:19PM

Let's not forget McDonald's and other fast food companies have been around 50 plus y, long before any obsession with weight. I grew up on them in the 60's and 70's and never had a weight problem then because we were active, riding our bikes where ever we went, playing ball in the park and so on. It's lack of activity and portion size that has plaged America the last 20 yrs, not the food itself. We're raising a generation of sedintary video watching slobs. Start being active and stop over eating, that's the problem, not the food.

Jan 13, 2012 3:52PM
we ought to be damned glad McDonald's is sponsoring the Olympics.   Lord knows our government is broke and could not afford to do it. 
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