McDonald’s adds athletes to #CheersToSochi campaign

U.S. bobsledder Steven Holcomb is part of the McDonald's #CheersToSochi campaign.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
McDonald’s recently signed six U.S. and Canadian athletes to social media deals to bolster its #CheersToSochi marketing campaign.

The athletes are Americans Steven Holcomb (bobsled), David Wise (freeskiing), Arielle Gold (snowboard), Taylor Gold (snowboard) and Canadians Kaya Turski (freeskiing) and Alexandre Bilodeau (freeskiing).

The deals were completed shortly before the Olympics. The athletes are supposed to promote the #CheersToSochi campaign in a handful of tweets and Facebook posts. Individual deals are valued in the five figures.

McDonald’s is one of the first TOP sponsors to cut social-media-specific agreements during an Olympics. The deals were cut by its digital agency, The Audience.

Increasingly, sponsors across sports are evaluating athletes based on the number of followers they have on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and writing endorsement contracts that require athletes to mention their brands on social media a prescribed number of times. But the McDonald’s deals show how sponsors now are open to last-minute agreements with athletes who can promote their brands at a time when their sports are most visible.

“We’ll see more of these social-media deals,” said Brant Feldman, who represents Holcomb, hockey player Julie Chu and several other Olympians. “It’s easy and it’s a way to activate an athlete at their height.”

Holcomb, Wise and the other athletes join a McDonald’s campaign that already featured well-known athletes like hockey player Patrick Kane and track-star-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones.

The campaign encourages fans to cheer on Olympians by sending personal messages and wishes for good luck using the hashtag line #CheersToSochi. It has come under attack from gay rights activists, who have tried to use the #CheersToSochi label for social-media protests of Russia’s anti-gay-propaganda law, but McDonald’s has stuck by the program.

Last-minute, social-media deals aren’t right for every athlete. Many are focused on their competition once an Olympics begins. But Holcomb doesn’t compete until next week, so Feldman said the McDonald’s deal made sense.

Feldman said other brands reached out to him about social-media deals with Holcomb in the weeks prior to the Olympics. Holcomb won a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games and is favored to medal in Sochi.

“People realize in Steve’s case, he’s a contender, but they’re hedging their bets,” Feldman said. “With Lindsey (Vonn) and Evan (Lysacek) out, Steve’s become an athlete companies are looking at.”

Holcomb also works with BMW, Under Armour, Devry and AdvoCare.

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