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Volume 27 No. 7
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McDonald’s Ends 42-Year Olympic Sponsorship Quietly

After 42 years as an Olympic sponsor, McDonald’s is going quietly into the night during its final days.

The fast-food giant and the International Olympic Committee agreed to a divorce in June 2017, three years prior to the scheduled expiration of its global rights deal. However, it stayed on as a domestic sponsor to the Pyeongchang Games.

The McDonald’s in the Gangneung Olympic Park
Photo: Ben Fischer
The McDonald’s in the Gangneung Olympic Park
Photo: Ben Fischer
The McDonald’s in the Gangneung Olympic Park
Photo: Ben Fischer

But its presence in Korea is understated, certainly compared to its heyday as an Olympics brand in the 1990s and 2000s. It is operating a full-service location inside the Gangneung Olympic Park for fans, and inside the Gangneung Olympic Village, but it had no presence in the Mountain Cluster in Pyeongchang and for the second straight Games did not open a site in either the main press center or the international broadcast center.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman did not reply to a request for sales figures or comments on its Olympic Park location, which has appeared to have long lines during meal times.

On the first Saturday of the Games, a McDonald’s inside the downtown Seoul train station had no external Olympics branding. That location is arguably its most important to the entire sponsorship — it was across from the entrance to the train platforms where thousands of Olympic fans boarded the KTX high-speed train daily to the Games. Inside the location, there were only commemorative glasses for sale and small Pyeongchang 2018 banners from the ceiling.

Part of the challenge for McDonald’s is the Olympic footprint itself. There is only one permanent McDonald’s store in either the Pyeongchang mountain cluster or the Gangneung city coastal cluster of the Games, according to local listings. In Rio, even though McDonald’s had a paired back presence in official Olympic venues, the chain had nearly three dozen retail stores in the city that carried commemorative packaging and other promotions.