McDonald’s Shows Off Basketball Legends’ High School Glory

A new McDonald’s site offers visitors an unusual experience: the chance to see Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and Shaquille O’Neal sink amazing shots… when they were still in high school.

The site,, is designed to promote the high-school all-star games, which take place in late March. The company has been putting on the event since 1977 to benefit Ronald McDonald House charity.

“[There were all] of these assets that we had and hadn’t really leveraged,” said Michon Ellis, senior manager of marketing communications at McDonald’s and director of the All American game. “[The old site] gave you the information, but didn’t really give you the full-fledged experience of the tradition of the game and all of the people who have been involved with the game in some capacity.”

The idea of the new site, says Derek Bonney, SVP at agency ImagineThat, was to show off the high school players who have become legends, in hopes of stirring up interest in who the next greats could be.

“Our goal was really to update the Web site and make it more relevant to the audience, which we felt was a much younger audience — high schoolers and above — and really play up the history aspect without making it boring,” he said.

To make the site more hip, the agency added music with a driving beat; utilized a font that evokes an urban style, and created Flash graphics. An online free throw game is in the works, as well.

While no online advertising campaign is planned, the company hopes to leverage partnerships with Reebok and Coca Cola’s Powerade. Reebok is already linking to the game site in the section of its own Web presence dedicated to basketball. Powerade also links to from its site, though the link is buried on an inside page. Offline, tray inserts that feature the site’s URL will be distributed at California McDonald’s locations.

The site will likely see the biggest burst of traffic over the next few weeks because McDonald’s will announce the teams that will be playing on February 22.

“Mid February through early April, we get our highest visits,” said Ellis. “What I’d love to do is continue that momentum through the summer and through the fall.” To that end, McDonald’s and ImagineThat are discussing viral and mobile components that could be added to the site. They’re also considering hosting user-generated content, by asking users to submit home videos showing why they should be an honorary all-American.

“We’ve always had a Web site,” said Ellis, “but this is the first time we’re really leveraging it to really have more of an active role in promoting the game.”

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