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More Than Just a Menu: McDonald’s Sponsorship with Lancer Athletics

by Paige Johnston

Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. Is your mouth watering yet?

You were probably quick to recognize the famous sum of these ingredients: The McDonald’s Big Mac. While this 520-calorie sandwich (side note: is a burger a sandwich? That’s a debate for another day) has become a tasty meal that seems to fit the lifestyle of rushed customers or hung-over students, it maybe isn’t the ideal fit for an athletic sponsorship agreement. Surely, many North Americans are quick to criticize unhealthy food chains that sponsor organizations within the health sector.

Although the coupling of such industries may seem like an awkward match, these organizations make great efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle through the partnerships they create.

Oddly enough, sports sponsorship was built on the backs of alcohol and cigarette companies, back in the 1800s. From Marlboro to Molson Canadian, these companies were traditionally present in the world of sport through sponsorship agreements.  

Recently, the Lancers Athletic and Recreation Program has been partnered with McDonald’s on a 10-year deal.

A great financial move for the University of Windsor but will everyone be able to stomach it?

Listen, I am not going to try and convince anyone that McDonald’s is a healthy choice. The golden arches represent a greasy, guilty pleasure for most of us, whether we admit it or not.

What I am suggesting, however, is that McDonald’s deserves evaluation beyond its calorie extensive fast-food menu, as the chain is an outstanding organization and partner for Lancer Athletics and Recreation. It’s probably time we cut them some slack.

From community involvement standpoint, McDonald has shown it can be a good citizen.  There’s the well-known Ronald McDonald House that provides an essential service for people in need. Globally, McDonald’s has invested in development programs ranging from youth baseball teams to hockey clubs and soccer programs with the hope of increasing physical activity around the world.

Although sweetened soft drinks, deep-fried chicken nuggets and soft serve ice cream may not exactly align with a healthy lifestyle, the famous food chain is heavily involved in the promotion of youth sport worldwide.

From that angle, the partnership between Lancer Athletics and McDonald’s is a net positive towards the Lancer community’s physical health. Of course, McDonald’s also benefits from Lancer Athletics.

A Lancer Athletics representative stated Lancer staff pitched in for McDonald’s by volunteering at local restaurant locations on Ronald McDonald Day. Similarly, during Alumni Weekend, McDonald’s showed its support to the Lancers by giving away more than 1000 free orange juices during the football game.

Agreements and collaborations like these are what makes this deal successful. It’s not because McDonald’s menu fuels Lancer varsity athletes, it’s because the Lancers are proud to work with an organization that places a heavy emphasis on giving back to the community.

Gripes aside, we should be thankful for this partnership and recognize that a perfect sponsorship fit is nearly impossible.

Marketing expert and kinesiology professor at the University of Windsor, Dr. Terry Eddy, suggested that traditionally, fast-food chains often have substantial advertising budgets. These funds allow athletic departments to work towards their mission more effectively. Eddy explains that the core product of these fast food chains doesn’t necessarily damage the partnership if other positive outcomes central to the athletic department’s mission are recognized.  

We can all agree that Lancer athletics and recreation strives to assist students in achieving a healthy lifestyle. While McDonald’s does not exactly check this box, it is easy to see the benefits that they do create for our athletic and recreation community.

And if you’re still uneasy with this deal, try the McDonald’s apple slices. They’re great.

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