The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and McDonalds have called time on their The Olympic Partner (TOP) worldwide sponsorship programme arrangements without quite reaching the agreed "finishing line" of the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics. McDonalds started sponsoring the United States Olympic Committee in 1976 and since 1996 has been part of IOC’s TOP programme. The parties current partnership will now finish up with McDonald's operating the Olympic park and village, and remaining a sponsor for the 2018 PyeongChang winter Olympics in South Korea. As with most contractual arrangements that end early, the terms of the split (financial and other) are likely to remain confidential. 

Olympic sponsors within the TOP program do change regularly – in January, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba signed a partnership deal through to 2028 and since McDonalds stepped down chipmaker Intel has became a major sponsor from 2018 Olympics through to 2024.   

The IOC has previously been criticised for partnering with sponsors like McDonalds and Coca-Cola (a current TOP) who many consider have core products not aligned to the nature of sport.  In the mid-1990’s, the New Zealand and Australian governments banned tobacco manufacturers from sponsoring sporting events leading to the demise of long running events partnerships such as the Benson and Hedges Tennis Open Tournament (NZ) and rugby league’s Winfield Cup (Australia).    More recently, Mexico and Berkley in California have introduced an excise tax on sugar drinks (similar to taxes on tobacco and alcohol).   Perhaps this split may be one of the first steps towards the changing nature of sponsorship arrangements for sporting events?

In any event, it is exciting that technology companies like Intel are taking more partnership/sponsorship roles in the sporting arena.  In a press statement Intel said it will work with IOC and “with other Olympic partners to integrate technology into many facets of the Olympic Games…including developing applications and platforms for virtual reality (including the first live broadcast in VR of Olympics events), 3D and 360-content; AI analytics; drones; and 5G services”.   We look forward to seeing how the new partnership helps the evolution of the Olympics.