McDonald's kicks off kids' program ahead of Olympics

McDonald's kicked off a 100-day countdown to the London Olympic Games April 17 with the official launch of its Champions of Play program.

The program, first announced in July 2011, was developed for kids ages 6 to 14 to encourage them to take a balanced approach to nutrition and activity.

"With today's busy lifestyles, making play a priority has never been more important and we are committed to being part of the solution," said Kevin Newell, McDonald's global chief brand officer. "The McDonald's Champions of Play program will be the largest kids and family outreach in our Olympic history, designed to connect millions of kids to the Games and inspire the power of play in communities around the world."

On-site at the London 2012 Games Through the Champions of Play program, McDonald's will bring nearly 200 kids from more than 34 countries to London for the opportunity to attend Olympic sporting events, meet athletes and tour cultural sights.

Also, for the first time ever, the kids will get a behind-the-scenes look at select venues, such as the Athletics stadium, Velodrome and BMX track.

The kids also will participate in chef demonstrations at the McDonald's restaurant in the Main Media Center. Working with McDonald's executive chef and senior director of culinary innovation Dan Coudreaut, the kids will learn about the ingredients and culinary expertise that goes into McDonald's food.

The two-story, 3,000-square-meter unit is one of four McDonald's that will be built specifically for the summer games. In addition to being the largest McDonald's in the world, the Olympic Park unit will also be the busiest, according to Jill McDonald, McDonald's UK CEO.

Finally, many of the participants will have the opportunity to act as members of the media during the Olympics, and will be asked to share their stories with their hometown press via a special media center set up for them.

"McDonald's shares our passion for bringing the youth of the world together and connecting with communities everywhere as only the Olympic Movement can do," said Jacques Rogge, international Olympic committee president. "McDonald's is a longstanding partner of the Olympic Movement and we are excited by their plans for London 2012, particularly that they are giving young people from around the world the chance to experience the magic of the Olympic Games."

Beyond the Games

The Champions of Play program will continue long after the London closing ceremony is over. Special materials and resources will be available in restaurants and online to encourage balanced eating and activity.

The Champions of Play Olympic Games Challenge website will launch June 4, with a preview available beginning April 19. On the site, Olympians will star in a series of challenges, such as "running around the world" and "pole vaulting to the moon."

Kids can participate in these challenges by doing real-life activities of their own and logging them online. Athletes will motivate kids with special messages of encouragement when they enter the website.

Led by five-time U.S. Olympic Swimmer and 12-time medalist Dara Torres as the Global Ambassador of the program, some of the additional athletes will include:

  • Gold-medal U.S. Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson;
  • Gold-medal Italy Kayaker Antonio Rossi;
  • Gold-medal U.S. Basketball player Dwight Howard; and
  • Bronze-medal Brazil Swimmer Fernando "Xuxa" Scherer

Dr. Paul Gately, Carnegie Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University, was instrumental in the development of the content and activities featured on the Olympic Games Challenge website. Gately, a long-standing member of McDonald's Global Advisory Council, designed each activity to provide a benefit for kids, focusing on the four training competencies of skill, strength, flexibility and cardio.

Happy Meal packaging

Gately also played a key role in the development of the McDonald's UK Happy Meal Mascotathon. Launching in the UK, this program features unique Happy Meal activity toys to track energy use and a website where kids can enter their points to move the Olympic and Paralympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, across the country to arrive in London in time for the Games.

Also as part of the overall Champions of Play experience, special Happy Meal packaging and in-restaurant materials, such as Fun Times Magazine, will provide tips on balanced eating and fun play. In addition, millions of Champions of Play Playbooks encouraging physical activity will be distributed to kids and families around the world.

London 2012 marks the ninth consecutive Games that McDonald's will serve as the Official Restaurant of the Olympic Games.

Check out Torres' behind the scenes promotion of the Champions of Play program.

Read more about marketing and branding efforts

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