SBJ/January 9 - 15, 2006/Marketingsponsorship

U.S. skating signs Burger King

As its national championships unfold this week to help determine Olympic team qualifiers, U.S. Figure Skating is launching a promotional partnership with a direct competitor of U.S. and global Olympic sponsor McDonald’s Corp.

Burger King will link itself to Sasha Cohen
and other top U.S. skaters in the next month.

U.S. Figure Skating and Burger King Corp. are joining forces on an in-store program that involves distributing four handheld electronic skating games to children ages 6-12 who purchase BK Kids Meals. The promotion in 7,500-plus restaurants begins today and runs through Feb. 5, five days ahead of the opening of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Retail food services competitor McDonald’s is a worldwide Olympic sponsor and, by extension, a U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor of the category, and recently renewed its contract through 2012.

It is not uncommon, or illegal, for U.S. Olympic sports federations to do deals with competitors of sponsors, but the USOC generally discourages the practice because it is often used by companies as a so-called ambush marketing strategy to confuse consumers about a brand’s sponsor status.

Global sponsors’ rights fees are about $65 million for the 2005-08 cycle.

According to U.S. Figure Skating, Burger King intends to use national TV advertising spots to drive customers to the promotion, which also includes cross-marketing with four NFL-branded electronic games.

“We think this promotion is an excellent way to begin the New Year and a fitting lead-in to the climax of the 2006 figure skating season,” said David Raith in a written statement. Raith became figure skating’s executive director last fall after heading broadcasting for USA Track and Field.

A federation spokeswoman, Lindsay DeWall, said in an e-mail that the timing of the promotion is geared to January’s designation as National Skating Month. “Burger King is helping U.S. Figure Skating generate interest in this program,” DeWall said.

Jim Grice, chief marketing officer for the USOC, said the organization was committed to promoting marketing opportunities between McDonald’s and the national governing bodies.

McDonald’s officials could not be reached for comment by deadline for this story.

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