In the UK McDonald’s has launched a new child-aimed London 2012 campaign aiming to promote active movement called ‘Mascotathon’.
The creative, which revolves around the one-eyed London 2012 mascot characters ‘Wenlock and Mandeville’, ties in with a new Olympic kids Happy Meal and aims to engage and encourage children to exercise.
McDonald’s, an IOC TOP global Olympic Games sponsor, aims to give away nine million ‘activity toys’ with its new Mascotathon Happy Meals during the campaign.
These are gadgets that measure how many steps or jumps the recipient/wearer makes in a day and the campaign itself encourages children to log on to an online game that translates their actions into energy for Games mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.
The game’s surface objective is for British kids to be so active that they can power the two mascots to the Olympic Park.
Included in its IOC international sponsorship rights, McDonald’s will provide the only branded food in the Olympic Park and the Athlete’s Village. This includes building the largest restaurant in the world on the park, something that in itself has attracted criticism.
Indeed, the campaign itself looks designed to combat criticism over the fast food giant’s role as an Olympics sponsor – most of the criticism revolves around health and obesity issues.
The campaign is spearheaded by a TV spot, by Leo Burnett London which focuses on kids skipping, hopping, jumping and running about as they attempt to rack up sufficient energy activity points to get the mascots to the games.
The TV work, as well as supporting press and digital activity, drives viewers online to the campaign’s bespoke microsite.
The campaign will run right through to the Games themselves. The TV ads will air for an initial 4-week period and will kick-off what is a 19 week campaign.
The initiative also includes a regional town and city tour by the London 2012 mascots around its British outlets. The aim of the local tour is to bring the Games beyond the capital and to provide an opportunity for children to meet the mascots.
This tour will be promoted by regional press and radio work.
“It will take the Olympics out of London and make sure kids can get involved and have some fun,” said Jo Webster, McDonald’s head of UK marketing.
A second wave of activity during the Games will give away vouchers for free sport sessions as part of a marketing strategy that will aim to counter criticism of its role.
McDonald’s work for London 2012 is markedly different from its campaign in Beijing four years ago.
For the China Games the fast food giant took a celebratory approach based on cheering and well wishing and involved more than one million people in creating the largest cheering team in the world.
In the UK, its London 2012 work already looks much more serious. And it needs to be too. After all, this campaign looks specifically crafted to manage brand opinion and combat criticism.
Most recently the UK’s Academy of Medical Royal Colleges demanded “bold and tough” measures to curb childhood obesity, including a ban on firms such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola from sponsoring sporting events such as the Olympics.
The vice-president of the Academy, Professor Terence Stephenson, said last weekend that the involvement of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s in the Games was “most unhelpful”.
“One of the biggest events we’re ever going to see in the UK – all those people watching TV and going through the doors will be seeing this,” he said. “People must be influenced by it, or why would Coca-Cola spend a lot of money to be at the Olympics?”
But there is academic support for the brand too.
Professor Paul Gately, Carnegie professor of exercise and obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: “When you look at the significant engagement and reach McDonald’s has, that provides a really great platform. It also really understands customers and how to talk to them. By providing them with the right information, McDonald’s is capable of switching kids on to physical activity and exercise, much more than what we’ve seen in previous public health campaigns. It can really contribute to the legacy objectives of 2012.”
“Rather than standing over the other side of the fence throwing things, I’d rather see how we can be effective at engaging with children and young people.”