Smashing the world-record for 100m in an Olympic final shouldn’t need a backstory. It should write itself. But when Usain Bolt did so in Beijing in 2008 having admitted, or rather announced, that he had devoured a total of 1,000 chicken nuggets throughout the Games – averaging 100 a day – it became that bit better.


George Davidson, Head of Insights at McDonald’s in the lead up to the Olympics, recalled how Bolt’s legendary snack of choice became PR gold dust for the fast food chain and helped them on their way to re-branding themselves.  

Speaking to UCFB, he said: “Bolt loved his nuggets and tucked in loads. He made it very clear and it was golden to have the star of the games plugging a great product. It was great for us as it helped communicate the idea that it was a great treat for people and not nearly as unhealthy as some people had portrayed.”

Bolt claimed that the local cuisine on offer in Beijing had given him an upset stomach, but when he continued his daily strolls into McDonald’s at London 2012, those around him – and those infuriatingly competing against him – began to wonder if, when you’re Usain Bolt, you can eat whatever you want. McDonald’s certainly weren’t complaining.

George continued: “The PR and sport sponsorship team at Maccies are pretty smart. They could see they simply didn't have to do anything. Bolt talking about treating himself to his nuggets was gold PR and didn't need any helping hand from our team. It was far from free PR as we had paid to be global sponsors and built a restaurant serving free food inside the athletes' village - but it was great.”

While McDonald’s continues to sponsor the Tokyo Olympics this year – having done so since 1976 – George notes a fascinating shift in their general sponsorship trends. Rather than continuing to associate with global sports organisations, the company have begun looking elsewhere for more authentic partners.

George finished: “It’s interesting to see now how McDonald’s have pulled back their sponsorship of big football events. The UK CEO, who went on to be Global President of McDonald’s, Steve Easterbrook, took the decision to pull back sponsorship. I suspect he was fed up with the brand being connected to controversial decisions like hosting tournaments in Russia/Ukraine and Qatar in 2022.

“Instead, they are now focussing much more of their sponsorship on grassroots football. McDonalds have made a very wise judgement that customers would much rather see sponsorship of local kids’ teams rather than global governing bodies.”