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McDonald’s Is Using These Social Strategies in Olympics 2016 [AND RESULTS]

McDonald’s is the world’s leading global food retailer, with 36,000 locations worldwide, serving more than 64 million customers in 117 countries each day. The company has been committed to the Olympics since 1968, when the company airlifted hamburgers to U.S. athletes in Grenoble, France. It has been associated with the Games ever since.  

While in the past McDonald’s has spent billions to reinforce their brand during the Olympics, for Rio 2016, McDonald’s did not have anything Olympics-related to share until two weeks beforehand.

McDonald’s, however, has been working on a key demographic: kids. Under their McDonald’s Olympics Kids program, honoring the spirit of friendship, McDonald’s has sponsored nearly 100 kids from around the world with a once-in-a-lifetime, and first-ever, opportunity to participate in an Opening Ceremony at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.


How has this affected consumer sentiment for the brand? Here is what the key conversations on social media have been for the Olympics and McDonald’s.

Trends for McDonald's at Rio 2016
Trends for McDonald’s at Rio 2016

While a large part of the conversations on social networks has been about McDonald’s sponsoring kids to attend the Olympics and about people who love their food, which generated positive sentiment for the brand, consumers questioning the association between the fast food chain and the Olympics–an event that requires athletes to be in their best form ever–resulted in negativity.


A Tweet from an influencer, Eden_Eats, was one of the most retweeted comments for the brand:

What has McDonald’s done to combat this trend?

In the first week of the Games, McDonald’s sent out 3,955 posts; of these, 99% were on Twitter. Less than 1% of their tweets mentioned the Olympics, with most of those posts referencing the McDonald’s Kid Program at the Olympics. The brand took a much simpler approach, true to their tagline of “Simpler the Better,” and focused on simpler ads and commentary about their food being healthier.

In this McDonald’s commercial, which was released just in time for the Olympics, has no direct references to the Games (except for the last shot, that shows the Olympic rings on the McDonald’s banner), but does showcase their efforts to move towards better and healthier food, highlighting their Chicken McNuggets. It has, however, received mixed reviews from the consumers on social media.

Some consumers called the ad creepy, but I loved the bonding between the father-daughter duo.

What McDonald’s Can Do to Capture Greater Positive Consumer Attention on Social

  1. Know the platforms their consumers use: The brand has been very active on Twitter. However, they have a very engaged user base on Instagram (over 14K engagement per post). Posting more frequently on Instagram with the right content (more on that below) would help amplify their message. Ninety-nine percent of McDonald’s Tweets were @replies, which are directed to the followers and do not drive engagement. Creating more conversations/engagement on the platform would also help the brand strengthen its initiative of moving towards healthier food.McD-BrandPosts-EngagementBreakdown-rev
  2. Know what content works: Videos are the most engaging content type for McDonald’s across all platforms, and they are one of the most effective ways to harness the power of social media. Creating more videos and testing their engagement on various platforms can help the brand amplify its messaging on social.McDBlog-BrandPosts-Engagement-EachChannel-rev
  3. Speak to the needs of the audience: As mentioned previously, McDonald’s has released very little content (less than 13% of all outbound posts which were not @replies) to counter the negative social sentiment. Listening to consumers’ needs and creating specific content to help them understand the brand’s “Simpler the Better” initiative better would go a long way towards cultivating positive sentiment in the long run.

McDonald’s has not used this year’s Games as a platform to promote itself on social, as they have in the past. This is surprising, considering that the Olympics is the biggest sporting event across the globe, and an opportunity for the brand to engage with consumers on social networks, where it is estimated that there will be around 2.67 billion users around the globe by 2020 (just in time for the next Olympics).

We will be keeping an eye on what efforts McDonald’s is making on social to promote their new mission, and watching how social media reacts to this initiative. Give us a shout-out on Twitter if there is anything in particular you would like to learn about McDonald’s presence on social media, and we will get on it right away.

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Tripti Shrivastava

I'm a Social Media Analyst at Simply Measured. I love food, music, movies, and long walks. Let's talk about social media data!

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