Citing a decision to “focus on different priorities,” McDonald’s announced on Friday it will no longer sponsor the Olympics.
“We have been proud to support the Olympic Movement, and we thank our customers and staff, the spectators, athletes and officials, as well as the [International Olympic Committee] and local Olympics Games organizing committees, for all of their support over the years,” Silvia Lagnado. McDonald’s global chief marketing officer, said in an IOC statement, adding that the fast-food chain made the decision “in cooperation with the IOC.”
McDonald’s has been an Olympics sponsor since 1976, and in 2012, the company signed on to sponsor the Games through 2020. However, with Friday’s announcement, the IOC said McDonald’s will end its presence at the biennial sporting event after the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, we understand that McDonald’s is looking to focus on different business priorities,” Managing Director of IOC Television and Marketing Services Timo Lumme said in a statement. “I would like to thank our friends at McDonald’s on behalf of the IOC for the commitment the company has shown to the Olympic Movement over many decades.”
McDonald’s involvement in the Olympics began before it became an official sponsor. In 1968, the fast-food chain airlifted hamburgers to homesick U.S. Olympians at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.
In 1996, McDonald’s became what appeared to be a permanent fixture at the Games when it began installing its restaurants in the Olympic Village, where athletes reside during the Games. This led to many high-profile advertising opportunities, as fans got to see some of the world’s greatest athletes chowing down on Big Macs and McNuggets. For instance, eight-time gold medalist Usain Bolt, famously recalled consuming more than 1,000 McNuggets during the Beijing Olympics.
“At first I ate a box of 20 for lunch, then another for dinner,” Bolt wrote in his 2013 book “Faster Than Lightning” (via the New York Post). “The next day I had two boxes for breakfast, one for lunch and then another couple in the evening. I even grabbed some fries and an apple pie to go with it.”
He added: “Man, I should have gotten a gold medal for all that chowing down.”
Bolt wasn’t the only athlete “lovin’ it” either. At last summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, athletes waited for hours in line to score some free grub.
“People were literally playing beach volleyball around the line,” U.S. rugby player Jessica Javelet told the Post last year.
Of course, one of the reasons for the long lines was the lack of palatable options at the cafeteria and other food stalls at the Games, according to athletes.
With McDonald’s set to pull its restaurants out of Olympic Village ahead of the 2020 Games in Tokyo, it remains unclear whether another global food partner will pick up the slack. Right now, the IOC said it has no “immediate plans” to appoint a replacement.
The loss of McDonald’s comes just months after Budweiser ended its three-decade sponsorship of Team USA. Other sponsors to drop their Olympic sponsorship deals include Citi, Hilton, TD Ameritrade and AT&T. Comcast, meanwhile, has signed on to become the U.S. Olympic Committee’s official communications partner through the 2020 Olympics.
Next year’s Olympics in PyeongChang kick off on Feb. 9.