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McDonald's Decides to Supersize With Yao

February 13, 2004|From Associated Press

Houston Rocket All-Star center Yao Ming is the new global spokesman for McDonald's, which let Kobe Bryant's contract expire after he was accused of rape.

Yao's multiyear sponsorship deal was announced Thursday at a McDonald's outlet inside the Los Angeles Convention Center. Yao is in town to play in Sunday's NBA All-Star game.

Bryant's three-year deal with the fast-food company expired Dec. 31. The Laker guard has lost other endorsement deals since being charged with sexual assault.

"We had a long, mutually beneficial partnership with Kobe," said Larry Light, McDonald's global chief marketing officer. "His contract expired, and we mutually determined under the circumstances it was best to not renew."

The company's research showed that Yao's attitude and charm are as much a part of his appeal as his athletic ability, Light said.

"Yao has international appeal and also represents the character of our brand," Light said. "He's youthful, dynamic and has a sense of humor. He's also very caring."

Yao will be used in McDonald's global marketing campaign, with an emphasis on physical fitness and activity, Olympic initiatives and support of Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The 7-foot-5 Yao was chosen as a Western Conference All-Star starter for the second consecutive year. He had 29 points and 11 rebounds in Houston's 102-87 victory over the Lakers on Wednesday night.

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