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McDonald's Faces Heat Over London Olympics, Hospital Franchises

Posted by Dale Buss on April 16, 2012 06:05 PM

You're running McDonald's and you're the world's most successful fast-food chain, growing lately all over the world. That would seem to indicate an ever-expanding (no pun intended) audience of consumers worldwide who want to partake of your burgers, fries, salads and smoothies — right?

Yet across the United States and halfway across the world, more folks seem to be falling all over themselves demanding that McDonald's stay as far away from them as possible. Blame an obesity fixation.

In the U.K., for example, a leading medical academic (acamedic? or in this case, activist-medic) is calling McDonald's "unhelpful" for being a leading sponsor of the London Olympics this summer, along with another "unhelpful" corporate ogre, that Coca-Cola Company.

"What can you do about this obesegenic environment we live in?" asked Prof. Terrence Stephenson, VP of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, in an interview with The Observer. Clearly when the Academy releases new anti-obesity recommendations in the fall, McDonald's will get hit again.

Hey, nobody said it would be easiest being the world's biggest burger chain — let alone building the world's biggest restaurant.

Meanwhile, in the United States, McDonald's is facing increasing heat over the obesity issue as it relates to its locations, as well as its menu.

In a part of Sacramento, Calif., for example, a neighorhood group is opposing a plan for a new McDonald's because it would be situated just across the street from an obesity clinic. A doctor who is part of the group told the Sacramento Business Journal that the location isn't appropriate because the University of California Davis obesity clinic is trying to help kids and families to lead active, healthy lives.

Well, then, the good doctor surely would object to something that has caught the eye of a U.S.-based activist group known as Corporate Accountability International. It's targeting McDonald's outlets located at nearly two dozen hospitals, calling on the institutions to evict the chain, following on its doctor-focused campaigning and other swipes at the golden arches.

"Stop fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health," the group has demanded as the latest volley in its "Value the Meal" protest. Of course, ducking activists' brickbats is one sport McDonald's would rather not support.


Andrew Talati Australia says:

It generally shows that the Olympics is just another brand where the underlining premise one would imagine is promoting elite level competition rather than sponsorship $$$ from burger chains.

It's an interesting case study in how a brand can define a market.

Given the power of the Olympic brand and that it's audience reach is in the same league at the Tour De France and the world cup soccer, surely there is some social responsibility?  

Even if there was some argument that their restaurants offered healthy choices, a recent study from The Cancer Council of NSW (Australia)  of 20 McDonald’s Restaurants observed the meals purchased by customers over a two week period. The study concluded that only 1% of the customers choose a healthy meal. 1449 meals were sold but only 2 in any one store were deemed healthy.

Yes it can be argued that a study of under 5000 people is too small a sample size but unless McDonalds can provide actual breakdowns we have little to go by.

Backing up the Cancer Council of NSW’s research is a study by Griffith University which observed 1025 purchases from McDonalds and Subway restaurants during lunchtime trade over two months. In their study only 2.5% of customers opted for a ‘nutritionally-promoted item’, such as McDonald’s Tick Approved meals or Subway’s Six Grams of fat or less.

One has to ask what is the Olympics really about?, countries lose 100M's to gain the rights to host it and the brand association has lasting benefits for the hosting country but at what price?
Think about the F1 circus, my own city of Melbourne loses over AUD50M yet our premiers fight to keep the brand association and exposure it generates although this cannot be accurately quantified.

Do we really want children to associate McDonalds with the Olympics?
It's an endorsement that can be read in so many ways, a massive win for McDonalds but a lose for the growing population of overweigh and obese individuals.

April 18, 2012 08:12 PM #

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