McDonald’s is the official fast-food sponsor of the Vancouver Games, but that hasn’t stopped Subway from trying to steal its thunder. McDonald’s is POed at the sandwich chain for airing commercials that suggest it is an official United States Olympic Committee sponsor, when in fact it is not. The ads in question star gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps as he heads to “where the action is this winter.” When questioned about McDonald’s anger over his company’s “ambush marketing” tactics, a Subway spokesman had this to say: “My reaction to the fact McDonald’s is upset? I’m lovin’ it.”
Smooth move. McDonald’s is using the Vancouver Games to launch a new product it hopes will bring home the gold: real fruit smoothies. And it has recruited actual gold-medalists Shawn Johnson, Picabo Street and Katarina Witt to help unveil the new drinks. (When you’re as big and powerful as Mickey D’s, you don’t settle for second best.) The smoothies, which come in two flavors – Strawberry Banana and Wild Berry – won’t be in most U.S. locations until the summer, but if you rush over to Vancouver, you can sample one now. Advertising Age reports that McDonald’s has been toying with the smoothie idea for the past three years, but had trouble figuring out which fruits to use based on cost and availability. It had to freeze out raspberries, for instance, because they were just too pricey. For McDonald’s, smoothies are just the newest front in the fast-food wars. The company launched an all-out attack on Starbucks last year with the introduction of McCafe, and is now widening the attack to go after chains like Jamba Juice and Smoothie King.
Food for thought. We love Chinese food. We’ll never get tired of wonton soup or General Tso’s chicken. But, appartently, the Chinese don’t feel the same way about the Colonel’s chicken. BusinessWeek is reporting that the Chinese are losing interest in American staples like KFC and Pizza Hut. Yum! Brands, which operates both these mega-franchises, has seen sales drop in China for three straight quarters, driving the Yum stock down about 6 percent over the last few weeks. So what’s the problem? Stiff competition from local rivals, says the BW report. “Ten, fifteen years ago, if you had air-conditioning with a clean bathroom, you were unique,” quips one observer. Also, there are now so many foreign chains in China now, it’s no longer considered cool and worldly to eat at one. Chinese think that American fast-food is “good for a while,” says one analyst, “but then they go back to their own diet.”