Just as McDonald's is gearing up its controversial sponsorship of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London that begins this week, the world's biggest fast-food brand is introducing a new US Olympics tie-in marketing program designed to continue to reposition the brand as at least a reasonable alternative for healthful fare in the eyes of American consumers.
"Favorites Under 400 Calories" is a new menu "platform" featuring existing popular food and beverage choices at McDonald's, in an attempt to remind customers that they have plenty of healthful and even diet-friendly choices under the golden arches. Team USA gold medal contenders hurdler Lolo Jones (above) and boxer Marlen Esparza are featured in a new series of commercials supporting the Olympics contest.
"We've found that customers are surprised to learn about the calorie content of some of their favorite menu options at McDonald's," Neil Golden, McDonald's U.S. CMO, said in a press release. "In fact, customers may be surprised to know that about 80 percent of national menu choices are under 400 calories for the standard recipe."
Items from the 400-calorie menu are spotlighted in the chain's "Win When USA Wins Gold" promotion, beginning Tuesday, July 23. Select items contain a game piece with which customers can win prizes instantly, as now being promoted in English and Spanish (above; watch more below) ads.
How the contest works works:
"Customers have two ways to win. Select items from the new menu contain a game piece and customers can peel and win prizes instantly including free McDonald's Favorites Under 400 Calories menu items. Additionally, all game pieces have a code that customers can enter at USAWinsGold.com. From this site, customers compete alongside the Team USA Olympians for a chance to win prizes whenever the USA wins a gold medal in a specified event. Prizes include $25,000 in gold, trips to London and Panasonic VIERA® HDTVs."
McDonald's can use a bit of extra promotional help these days. After a strong run of several years, chain management is troubled by the confluence of worsening consumer confidence in most markets around the world. So in addition to cranking up its nutrition messaging, McDonald's will have to continue to focus on value even though it hurts margins.
"This is one of the first times where we have seen it in a much broader-based perspective; it's a little bit more than a European cold," CFO Peter Bensen told analysts on a conference call today for McDonald's second-quarter earnings, which fell short of analyst expectations, according to the Wall Street Journal. "The magnitude of the issues in Europe are having ripple effects around the world," hurting consumer confidence and causing fewer people to eat out, he said.
If McDonald's US 2012 Olympics campaigns — including promoting its new Favorites Under 400 Calories menu (check it out below) — catch on anything like the chain's traditional "Monopoly" game promotions, then they could provide at least a temporary boost in consumer interest.
By tying prizes to a specific event, the 2012 Olympics tie-in aims to avoid repeating one of the biggest marketing disasters in McDonald's US history: The brand's 1984 Olympics campaign that "offered free burgers, fries and a Coke for every medal that the US Olympic team won," as one blogger recalls. "Team USA won loads of events and McDonald’s lost money. Big disaster."
Below, check out McDonald's US new 400 cal. (or less) menu and its latest Olympic commercials:
Below, "Out of the blue, Tara shows up and coaches U.S. boxer Marlen Esparza. Because if Team USA wins gold, Tara could win prizes":
"Brian gives a 'fast-talking' interview on how an ordinary guy ended up coaching extraordinary U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones":
"Tara delivers a 'hard-hitting' interview on how a fancy girl ended up coaching fierce U.S. boxer Marlen Esparza":
In "I Love You," below, "Heart broken Filet-O-Fish quickly rebounds after being dumped by Grilled Classic Premium Chicken Sandwich. With more than 80% of McDonald's national menu choices under 400 calories - there are plenty of other options out there":
In "My Type," below, "Egg McMuffin pines for Oatmeal, only to have his hopes dashed by a smooth-talking rival. With more than 80% of McDonald's national menu choices under 400 calories — there are plenty of other options out there":
And putting a bow on it, McDonald's revisits its campaign featuring some of the farmers who supply its ingredients in a new series of spots for its suppliers, without whom the 400-calorie or less push wouldn't be possible:
"Jenn grew up on a potato farm, watching and learning from her father. Now she grows her own potatoes — the ones that make McDonald's fries:"
"Producing quality, fresh lettuce day in and day out to McDonald's is just part of the job for Dirk and his farm. Meet more of the hard-working people behind your McDonald's favorites":
"Raising quality beef is what Steve Foglesong and his family do. And the quality beef they raise is part of McDonald's famous burgers":