Update: Gabby Douglas, MacDonalds and Fast Food Leadership

According to Advertising Age, Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas will be replacing Ronald McDonald for a bit, promoting the new egg white “delight” at restaurants and events.

It all started, apparently, when the 16 year old said she “splurged” on egg mcmuffins to celebrate her Olympic win. It’s a clear effort for MacDonalds to boost its market share with supposed health conscious offerings. (The all white mcmuffin has 50 calories less than the 300 calorie egg mcmuffin.)

Advertising Age was blunt in its assessment of this move:

“McDonald’s revenue has stagnated during the last four quarters as the chain has faced more competition from Burger King and  Taco Bell — both of which are introducing healthier new items. Last week, the Big Mac seller posted first-quarter profit that was little changed as same-store sales slumped 1.2% in the U.S.

That weakness is continuing this month, and comparable-store sales are expected to decline in April, Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson said in a statement on April 19.

While McDonald’s is promoting some healthier food, the bulk of sales still come from the chain’s more familiar items, Peter Saleh, a New York-based analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, said in an interview.

“Nothing is ever really going to top the Big Mac or the Chicken McNuggets,” he said. “Those are the core items that drive the majority of their business.”

Promoting items with Olympic athletes can be risky because they don’t have a lot of “staying power,” Mr. Dorfman said.

When Ms. Douglas finished the games last year, “she was the darling of America,” he said. “Now that’s faded a little bit.”

Douglas as fading darling: I wonder if it has to do with the ways she’s been so effectively promoted into the public eye, creating a reported net worth of $3 million and a squeaky clean but rather dull public image. As an African American athlete, she is still a trailblazer, but she may have saturated the market with cheery charm.

When she came back from her win, I hoped she’d become a leader with more substance, but it seems she’s choosing to become a teen sensation, and bank as much as she can from her celebrity.

That’s not a surprise, I guess — it’s the successful athlete’s path to success. And she is only 17, and charming, and driven to return to the Olympics, being a good role model (if not a leader)  simply by persistence in following her goals. I’ve written about athletes as role models, a precarious but passionate kind of leadership celebrity – it’s what we allow them, and we have high expectations if they don’t perch perkily on their pedestals.

But if that’s the lucrative leadership role she’s chosen, I think I have a right to be disappointed in her choice — MacDonalds? The Salt Sugar Fat capital of our national addiction to mouth feel and irresistable chemical ups and downs that are making us obese and keeping us sluggish? Please! She may occasionally eat MacDonald’s mcmuffins, but if she made it a regular habit, she wouldn’t have made the grade in the Olympics.

Let’s not forget that most of the young people who reward themselves with MacDonald’s food are far from athletic and healthy.


One comment

  1. […] No doubt, this story is true enough. But I’m getting to the point where I want more. I want to see her fierceness, not just in that moment when she decided to train with a coach far from her family, but in the moments of her life now, as she wanders the country as a young black celebrity, as she trains for her next Olympic bid,  and “flips” for egg-white McMuffins. […]


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