In 1992, Michael Jordan won the title of MVP for leading the Chicago Bulls to victory at the NBA Finals. The Bulls had won their first championship the previous season, and Jordan had proved himself invaluable in achieving that success. He was on top of the world, which led to him making a decision that any NBA champion would after winning their second championship: he partnered with McDonald’s. The meal was called the McJordan, a cheeseburger with pickles, raw onion slices, bacon, and barbeque sauce on a sesame seed bun. It was only available in Chicago and for only a limited time, making it one of the restaurant’s most exclusive menu items. It was the first celebrity promotion that the company ever did and, for a long time, the only one… until now.
Hip-hop artist Travis Scott unveiled his collaboration with McDonald’s on Sept. 8 of this year. What did that mean exactly? For starters, it meant that customers could order the ‘Travis Scott Meal’ — a quarter pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, with a side of fries and a sprite for $6. It also meant a new merchandise collection from Scott that featured homages to the McDonald’s brand, including t-shirts, a retro lunch box, and a $90 Chicken McNugget body pillow. Scott and his team also designed new uniforms for McDonald’s staff that were worn during the promotion, which ended on Oct. 4.
The promotion was a major success; since the launch of the Travis Scott Meal, McDonald’s stock has risen by over 6 percent, and sales of the meal notably aided McDonald’s in overcoming a dip in sales that likely started due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It makes sense: Travis Scott is a major artist, having sold millions of certified records in the U.S. alone, and is extremely popular with an audience that the fast food franchise has had difficulty appealing to in the past — young people. According to Wells Fargo, the promotion allowed the company to connect “with an audience that’s been a weak spot over the past 20 years,” that being consumers between the ages of 11 and 24.
However, while many customers and employees have sung the praises of the promotion, some have called into question the reasoning behind the decision to work with Travis Scott specifically. Recently, McDonald’s was sued by two former executives, who accused the company of conducting “a ruthless purge” of Black employees in management positions. They also claimed that the company fostered a “hostile and abusive work environment” for Black executives and franchise owners. A second lawsuit was filed by 52 Black ex-franchise owners, who alleged that the company engaged in “systematic and covert racial discrimination” towards them and their workers. These are serious allegations, made even more timely by the recent Black Lives Matter movement that has been active throughout (primarily) the U.S., and since the Travis Scott deal was unveiled at right around the time when these lawsuits first came to light, many critics are suggesting that the promotion was a reaction to the lawsuits — a way to improve their image among the public.
McDonald’s offered a response to the accusation: “Any claim that McDonald’s collaboration with Travis Scott was launched in response to recent litigation is completely false. We teamed up with Travis — and our newest celebrity partner, J Balvin — because of their love for the McDonald’s brand, their widespread appeal, and their loyal following among our younger customers and our crew.” According to the source at Complex, the Scott deal was finalized prior to both lawsuits being filed, which would suggest that the promotion was indeed non-reactionary.
Just a day after the Scott promotion ended, McDonald’s announced a new collaboration with pop artist J Balvin. The ‘J Balvin Meal’ will consist of a Big Mac, fries, and an Oreo McFlurry for $6 if ordered on the McDonald’s app. Ordering the J Balvin meal through the McDonalds’ app gives one the chance to win three limited edition chains with real diamonds and rubies. The offer is available through November 1.
While McDonald’s may have moved on from it’s previous promotion, that doesn’t change the fact that the company has still been accused of engaging in racially discriminatory practises. Yes, it has unveiled a new collaboration with a new artist, but that doesn’t mean that consumers will move on too. The accusations levied are serious, and these lawsuits should be paid attention to because they will likely reveal what exactly the ethics of the fast food chain are. In the meantime, there’s an important question that a responsible consumer should ask themselves: is it okay to eat at McDonald’s?
Featured Photo Courtesy of Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for McDonald’s