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McDonald's Is Rolling Out a Healthier Image

The fast-foot giant plans to sell branded skateboards and bikes 'to help make fitness fun.' A health expert says it's about time.

June 17, 2005|Claire Hoffman | Times Staff Writer

There may be a new lord in Dogtown: Ronald McDonald.

As part of its recent campaign to revamp its image, McDonald's Corp. said this week that it would begin selling branded skateboards and bikes this year at retailers such as Target Corp.

The aim, the company said, is "to help make fitness fun."

"About time," said Dr. Naomi Neufeld, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCLA, who works with obese children. "They have the marketing clout if they can get these kids off the couch and onto skateboards and bikes."

McDonald's will market the items in a partnership with DIC Entertainment of Burbank, and the product line will include videos and clothing with vintage McDonald's logos.

The move comes as the fast food giant tries to deflect criticism about its alleged role in the country's rising obesity rate.

The company recently launched a full-scale makeover of Ronald McDonald, its longtime mascot. In a series of new global TV commercials, the clown wears a tracksuit as he juggles vegetables and shoots hoops with basketball star Yao Ming.

McDonald's also launched a salad line two years ago and now offers options such as apple slices and milk in its Happy Meals.

Still, some critics have groused that the campaign is just an effort to shift attention from the company's continued high-volume sales of calorie-laden cheeseburgers and French fries. And this year, McDonald's paid $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of not informing consumers about delays in its plans to switch to healthier cooking oil.

There's no word yet on whether McDonald's plans to acknowledge a well-known, extremely challenging skateboarding trick by bringing back to its menu the McTwist.

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