McDonald's walks away from Olympic sponsorship three years early

The decision to end the sponsorship is understood to have been 'mutually agreed'

McDonald’s has severed ties with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after ending its contract three-years early.

The US fast-food chain has ended its sponsorship with immediate effect after the two parties "mutually agreed" to end their 41-year long relationship.

McDonald’s cited its reason for walking away from the deal early as part of a wider business strategy intended to facilitate global growth.

In a statement, Silvia Lagnado, the global chief marketing officer at McDonald's, said: "As part of our global growth plan, we are reconsidering all aspects of our business and have made this decision in cooperation with the IOC to focus on different priorities.

“We have been proud to support the Olympic Movement, and we thank our customers and staff, the spectators, athletes and officials, as well as the IOC and local Olympics Games organising committees, for all of their support over the years.”

Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC television and marketing services, added: "In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, we understand that McDonald’s is looking to focus on different business priorities. For these reasons, we have mutually agreed with McDonald’s to part ways. I would like to thank our friends at McDonald’s on behalf of the IOC for the commitment the company has shown to the Olympic movement over many decades."

McDonald's has been an Olympic sponsor since 1976 and was part of the IOC’s top sponsors programme, which contributes more than one billion dollars in every four-year cycle for the Games. The company extended its membership in 2012 in an agreement that was scheduled to 2020 and was believed to be worth a nine-figure sum.

It will remain a domestic sponsor of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, operating restaurants in the Olympic Park and athletes' village, however its branding and marketing activity will be restricted to South Korea.

Commenting on the news of McDonald's exit, Joanne Warnes, chief operating officer at HSE Cake, said: "The Olympics remains a truly global platform for brands, with a rare ability to amplify brand messages. But brands get little natural exposure via the clean stadia principle. One issue is whether the IOC has moved sufficiently quickly to embrace social and digital platforms in the way Formula One has recently."

The IOC has stated it has "no immediate plans" to seek a replacement for McDonald's in the restaurant category, and said it will consider its partnerships in that sector as part of a wider review of its Olympic marketing programmes.

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