McDonald's / Olympics "Champions of Play" Campaign Launches

I am not an Olympiad.  But my right index finger on this here shoot earned me a gold medal for the sheer number of times I hit the shutter release: around 50,000 times in 4 days.

McDonald’s has launched “Champions of Play”, a global campaign for children’s wellness, as part of its renewal as the official restaurant of the Olympic Games through 2020. The "Champions of Play" program, for kids age 6 to 14, is built around physical activity / nutrition and is McDonald’s largest global kids initiative to date.  I was commissioned by The Marketing Store Worldwide (Chicago) to photograph all the images of the kids in connection with the campaign – 35 energetic kids in all.

Creative Directors Dana Parker and Joshua Storm exercised my ability to negotiate all manner of “kid stuffs”:  augmenting attention spans, teaching the meaning of left & right, and convincing the little ones that David Byrne and Talking Heads are the best soundtrack for a game of tug of war, or walking a tight rope, or flying a kite.  Parker and Storm’s design for all the applications incorporated illustration (created by the brilliant Caroline Attia) with the photography in a fresh and playful way.  I often mistook Dana and Josh for being 7 year olds - when I saw them competing against each other in a potato sack race, I realized they were superiors.

Accordion-fold "Champions of Play" booklet included in Happy Meals worldwide. 

As I goofed around with my young subjects, leaping madly to demonstrate proper air guitar technique, I learned (again) that no matter how technically correct my work may be, real success comes from knowing how to play. Don’t be surprised if one day you find yourself doing an impromptu jig for my camera. It’s all in the name of bringing out your authentic best.

The program includes booklets in 70 million Happy Meals for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, encouraging kids to earn "activity points," by doing such things as cartwheels or racing with a friend, and logging the activities online. Up to 200 of the participants will be selected from 34 counties to attend the Games with an adult, go behind the scenes at Olympic venues and meet athletes from their home countries. Some also will blog about their experiences. 

Presentations created for Mitch's portfolio.

Champions of Play website applications. 

More than 33,000 restaurants around the world will host such grassroots programs as youth sports leagues and competitions, feature special Happy Meal packaging, a 14 page accordion fold booklet included in the Happy Meals, in-store materials, and promote a website that showcases Olympic athletes and provides ways to track their progress.


Thanks in large part (or maybe completely) to the wizardry of producer Philip Pavliger ( the shoot went virtually flawless.  Of course now you’re asking yourself why the word “virtually”?  Okay, okay!  Some of the kids thought 7 straight hours of David Byrne / Talking Heads music was a bit overkill, and refused to work “under these conditions”.  So the music was changed:  System of A Down

Here are some production stills grabbed from video (taken by Tony George) and a couple other goodies that I think captured the vibe.

Mitch and the tight rope walker.

Creative Director, Joshua Storm laughs at me.

Creative Directors Josh and Dana in mid-race.

Potato sack coaching.

The air guitar session.

Limbo not like me.

Stylist Tietjen Fischer uses the force.

Girl hopping, Mitch taking pictures, Dana drinking coffee, Sherrie applying makeup.

A happy family.  (Left to Right:  Stellar peeps.)

Creative Directors:  Dana Parker & Joshua Storm
Illustrator:  Caroline Attia
Art Buyer:  Karen Mosher
Producer:  Panlicker Productions / Phillip Pavliger
Casting:  Nancy Hayes Casting
Assistants:  Julio Duffoo & Tony George
Digital Technician:  Mark Adams
Stylist:  Tietjen Fischer
Hair & Makeup:  Sherrie Long
Studio:  Fourth Street Studios

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