IOC and McDonald’s ”mutually” agreed to end the TOP Partnership

After 41 years of marriage, the Olympics and McDonald’s will take different paths forward. The news came like a bomb in the sports marketing business.

Let us first focus on this bullshit called ”mutually agreed” termination.

Read this two quotes from the press release:

”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”, said Timo Lumme, Managing Director of IOC Television and Marketing Services.

”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”, said McDonald’s Global Chief Marketing Officer Silvia Lagnado.

Just… no. They may agree that they do not agree. Nothing more.

Will the IOC have a backup partner?

There can be one main reason for why a rightsholder like the IOC terminate such a contract as this with McDonald’s – and that’s if they already have someone who can replace them with more money.

But that’s not the case here. A competitor to McDonald’s wouldn’t pay so much more than McDonald’s, it’s not worth the risk and surely not the work to get another company through the media clutter.

All (other) TOP Partners have agreements through to 2020, with Bridgestone, Panasonic and Toyota through to 2024, Alibaba through to 2028, and Omega through to 2032.

Could it be a political statement?

There is more likely that this is a political statement from McDonald’s (read: I’m not saying it is, but it’s more likely).If I worked at the FIFA marketing department, I should be a little bit nervous about the fast-food contract that will display the company in questioned World Cups as in Russia and Qatar.

If I worked at the FIFA marketing department, I should be a little bit nervous about the fast-food contract that will display the company in questioned World Cups as in Russia and Qatar.

And please note that McDonald’s will never say that it is a political statement (if it is). In four decades they have been a part of the Olympic development and decisions, so saying the IOC is ”developing in the wrong” way will implicitly mean that they didn’t care during the last years.

Business trumps someone else’s legacy.

Will Intel take the leap?

However, for the IOC Marketing department, the rumor says Intel will take a step upwards to become a TOP Partner.

According to SportsBusiness Global, ”the question over Intel’s exact category definition has been at the forefront of negotiations for nearly a year with drones and virtual reality both possible components of a deal”. And keep in mind that the IOC already has numerous other tech-partners, including Samsung, Panasonic and Alibaba.

Intel will have a press conference on June 21, but it’s not confirmed that it will be about the Olympics.

Will Average Joe care at all?

But let us head back to McDonald’s decision one last time, because I want to note that the timing is logical. The next three Olympics will be held while McDonald’s largest market (America) are asleep.

Maybe Pyeongchang, Tokyo and Beijing was a brilliant move in the long-term, efficiently work the growing Asian market, but it might have fastened this decision.

”The IOC has three sturdy hosts lined up next, but you can see the cracks spreading. They needed to go back to Beijing for the second time in 14 years, which looks desperate”, wrote Cathal Kelly in a read-worthy column.

”McDonald’s departure is just the latest signal that the Olympic operation is in decline, along with the benefit to being linked with it.”, he adds.

As a sponsorship nerd, it will also be interesting to see how McDonald’s brand recognition and brand values will (maybe) change – in context with the Olympics. I’m sure we sports marketers overestimate what ”Average Joe” thinks about sponsors and rightsholders.

(And I don’t blame them…)

I promise you a very, very large share of the population will still think McDonald’s is an Olympic (TOP) partner for many, many years. And for all the National Olympic Committees, the food category will easily be filled with local partners. So by the end, it’s no big deal for a big meal.

Will LA 2024 be the most innovative Olympics ever?

The city of Los Angeles goal is to be world-leading in the areas of innovation, technology, and green initiatives. With the Silicon Valley only 350 miles away, the conditions couldn’t, of course, be better. The strategy will have an impact on the Olympics – if Los Angeles wins the bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

One of the ”innovative” areas LA 2024 are looking at is eSports.

LA2024 Chair, Casey Wasserman, says:

”eSports’ immense global popularity and continued advances in digital technologies as tremendous tools for reconnecting millennials with the Olympic movement.”

Augmented reality could be real

Casey Wassermann hopes that technologies such as augmented reality will make the Olympics more interesting to a younger demographics, and ”to promote healthy lifestyles [as] a key objective… to create a new Games for a new era in 2024”.

LA2024 is also looking at hackathons.

The bid organization sponsored, for the second consecutive year, the LA Hacks Hackathon event at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. The event brings together programmers to work intensively around the clock on hardware and software issues and solutions, including some that will be integrated into the Olympics.

”LA 2024’s involvement with LA Hacks… is proof of young people’s love for the Olympic and Paralympic Games – participants jumped at the opportunity to contribute to creating the most innovative Games experience in history.”, says Luke Chui, LA Hacks President and current UCLA student, to

VR – the closest to the Olympics you will ever be?

Then, there is Virtual Reality.

California-based company NextVR are making progress to re-invite live, immersive sports broadcasting. Partnering with leagues such as the NBA and Major League Baseball, fans can experience the games through virtual reality via the NextVR app. The broadcasts feature multiple camera views, replay, graphics, and even dedicated commentator and analysts.

And don’t forget the sustainability program with green innovation in center.

”Under the leadership of the venue’s owner, AEG, StubHub Center will be the location of LA 2024’s Green Sports Park, highlighting the best in sport and green innovation.”, said Brence Culp, Sustainability Director of LA 2024.

And, as the GreenSportBlog describes it:

”Before we get to LA 2024’s sustainability story, let’s reflect on this: How GREAT is it that the two remaining bids to host the 2024 Summer Olympics are in a figurative, innovative battle to see which is the most sustainable? Would this have been the case five years ago? I think not. To channel my inner Joe Biden, this is a ’big…deal!'”

LA2024 will seek to be an early innovator of new technologies that ”have not even been created yet”. On September 13, we will know if Los Angeles will be the host of the Olympics 2024, or if Paris has beaten them.

Snow volleyball can make the sport double Olympic

With a little bit of luck (and a lot of hard work), volleyball can be the first sport to appear in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Say hello to snow volleyball.

The ”new” sport is spreading in the European alps and the international federation, FIVB, have their eyes on the Winter Olympics.

“Unfortunately, all winter games are limited to those countries where conditions for practicing winter sports are available. But within that group of winter sports countries, I think snow volleyball is going to be a big success. I really hope we can see it at the Olympics one day.”, says Martin Lebl, beach volleyball Olympian from Sydney 2000.

With a European tour already established, volleyball officials have set out an agenda that would bring the new snow sport to Asia, Argentina and the United States with an eye toward approval as a demonstration sport at the 2022 Beijing Games.

Sorry, I have no idea if snow volleyball have any chance to be a demonstration sport ”already” 2022. However, I find it interesting that Red Bull logos always appear in those new, hip contexts…

The never ending question – grassroots or gold medals?

According to a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Pro Bono Economics, 7% of the UK people said they had been inspired to take up sport by the London Olympics.

And here’s some of the explanations, or should I say ”excuses”, from the rest:

  • 18% blamed ”their busy lifestyle” for their failure to get active
  • 17% cited the cost of playing sport as being the main thing stopping them
  • 12% claimed a lack of local facilities
  • 12% said they simply lacked the confidence to participate in sport.

“Britain really has got sport upside down. Why spend billions on an Olympics when few kids in the country have the facilities to play judo, fencing or equestrianism anywhere near their homes?”, journalist and author Simon Kuper commented the findings.

But the ”effects” of the London 2012 isn’t that easy.

According to UK Sport, who published their own answer to the study, more than half a million people claimed that they and their families were doing more exercise, more than two months after the event. And this was participants from the ”I am team GB” campaign alone.

Personally, I want to track as many of these studies I can to get the most insights ahead of the Swedish campaign for the Winter Olympics 2026. The politicians will give notice of an application this autumn.