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Skateboarder Tony Hawk targets youth for McDonald's

NEW YORK - Skateboarder Tony Hawk is the latest celebrity to be lured by the burger giant McDonald's, signing a deal to appear in the chain's advertising and give his input on reaching today's young customers -- even though he is 35 years old.

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Hawk will join Justin Timberlake and The Neptunes as the latest celebrities to tell kids that eating hamburgers is cool. McDonald's announced the partnership as the "I'm lovin' it" advertising, created by German agency Heye & Partner, is set to break in the US next week.

McDonald's will sponsor the Boom Boom HuckJam, a tour featuring skateboarders and BMX riders that was launched by Hawk last year. Hawk is due to appear in a different set of McDonald's commercials, to be created by Leo Burnett Chicago, which the company said were "designed to speak to kids, tweens and teens".

Although a skateboard hero, Hawk has always had his eye on the commercial potential. He bought his first house from his earnings when he was 17. However, when skating fell out of fashion he hit hard times and, according to his website, allotted himself a daily Taco Bell allowance of five bucks -- a detail that may be changed in light of his McDonald's agreement.

Good times returned, however, with skateboarding becoming cool once more. Hawk has had sponsorship deals with the footwear brand Adio, created his own range of clothing, which was sold to Quiksilver in 2000, and has lent his image to one of the most popular PlayStation games, 'Tony Hawk's Pro Skater'.

McDonald's is hoping that global "I'm lovin' it" marketing push will turn the tide of slowing sales at its restaurants. In the US, it will be using the main "I'm lovin' it" brand advertising, along with the first new product spot.

Bill Lamar, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer of McDonald's, said that the campaign was a new way of connecting with customers.

"It will rekindle the emotional bond our customers have with McDonald's through a campaign that depicts how people live, what they love about life and what they love about McDonald's," he said.

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