McDonald's role in Olympics will be the smallest in decades


By Caitlin Dewey, The Washington Post

via St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Feb 9, 2018


McDonald's has long been a fixture at the Olympic Games, mobbed by hungry athletes and promoted in flashy ads reserved for the Games' corporate partners.


But this Friday, for the first time in more than 20 years, the International Olympic Committee will open its winter event without the sponsorship of McDonald's.


The American fast-food chain abruptly canceled its contract with the IOC last June, ending three years early a partnership that McDonald's has held since the 1990s. While the company is still a local "partner" of the 2018 Games - holding domestic marketing rights in South Korea, and handing out free Big Macs in the Olympic Village - its footprint will be the smallest it's been in decades.


Observers blame heightened competition in the fast-food industry, as well as changes to the Games themselves. McDonald's, long the presumed king of quick-service chains, has had to pull back on its sponsorship commitments to fund menu changes and technology improvements, analysts said.


McDonald's Olympic partnership also had attracted a barrage of bad press from public health groups, who have accused the IOC of undermining its emphasis on health and athleticism by taking money from companies that sell junk food.


"Industries change, and the needs of corporations also change," said Rob Prazmark, a sports marketing consultant at the firm 21 Consulting who helped develop the Olympics' sponsorship program. "Over the years, we've seen a number of companies fall out of the program because of that."


McDonald's decision to withdraw was unusual, however, even in relation to sponsors that have left the Olympics before...