Holy Meals at McDonald’s

On tour with the Pope (do you want salvation with that?)

Microsoft thinks it has a good thing going with Xbox headlining Lollapalooza this summer. But McDonald’s quietly scored an even more divine sponsorship coup this month, teaming up with the Roman Catholic Church in Spain to sponsor Pope John Paul II’s visit there.

A highlight of the Pope’s trip was a massive pray-in at a Madrid aerodrome, with tickets going for between $11 and $45 apiece. According to a report in The Guardian, believers received a backpack (dubbed the “pilgrim’s bag”) full of papal merchandise, including a “You Will Be My Witness” tour cap, CD, rosary and prayer book, plus vouchers for dinner (a burger, fries, soft drink and an ice cream or baked apple pie) at McDonald’s.

Despite the absence of a Soccer Jesus figurine in the package, more than half a million people showed up for the event, ensuring that Catholic leaders would more than offset the estimated $1.5 million cost of the visit (profits beyond that are going to charity) and that McDonald’s would have lines out the door in the evening.

Many in the marketing world are impressed. “I was a little surprised that the Pope, being as anti-capitalist as he is, would agree to this. But I think it’s great. Who better to team up with than the Pope?” says Drew Livingston, president of FreeCar Media in Los Angeles. More to the point, would Livingston, whose company wraps vehicles with brand messages and logos, agree to wrap the Popemobile, should the request come in? “I’d be happy to,” he says. “What a feat that would be to put on my résumé.”