McDonald’s is partnering with the Immigrant Archive Project to share the stories of the fast-food chain’s Latino owners and operators.

Immigrant Archive Project is an organization founded in 2008 to document, preserve and share the stories of multicultural American immigrants.

Tony Hernandez, co-founder and producer at Immigrant Archive Project (IAP) explained that while the organization has partnered with companies in the past, including Farmers Insurance, the collaboration marks the organization’s first partnership of this magnitude. He said it was a natural fit since the Immigrant Archive Project has already documented the stories of McDonald’s franchise owners and their impact on local communities.

“McDonald’s has a proud history of supporting our communities across the country and around the world,” McDonald’s head of cultural engagement and experiences, U.S. marketing Lizette Williams told Adweek. She pointed to McDonald’s Hispanic Operators Association (MHOA), which was founded in 1977 by 10 Hispanic franchisees “as a national partnership with the company to build our community support and provide a direct link to our customers.”

Williams called the partnership “a perfect fit for the president of the MHOA, Ana Madan, IAP, new-gen Latinos, McDonald’s corporate and our owners and operators at large,” since “the stories of owners and operators, many of whom emigrated to the U.S, opened a McDonald’s restaurant and built a legacy of generational wealth for their families and their communities” is “at the heart of MHOA.”

According to Hernandez, pre-production on the videos will be over the course of the next month, with production taking place in April and May. The project will then launch with eight stories of McDonald’s owners and operators across the country shared widely across social media platforms in June.

He explained that the partnership began developing over four months ago. “As luck would have it, we recorded the stories of two McDonald’s owners and operators several years back. What they gave us on camera was so rich, so touching and so real,” including the story of one of the earliest Latino McDonald’s owners and operators, Roberto Madan.

That helped the organization show McDonald’s the potential benefit of such a partnership.

“It’s really important for an oral and visual history project such as this that it’s seen by as many people as possible,” Hernandez said. The hope is that McDonald’s platforms will enable them to be viewed by potentially “millions of people.”

“For us, that is absolutely invaluable,” he said, “to be able to see immigrants presented in a true light and one that will help break myths and misconceptions” about immigrants and their contributions to society.

Hernandez said these stories were “more important than ever to tell right now, because there is so much misinformation being shared out there widely, so many misconceptions and so many falsities being accepted for truths.”

“I’ve always felt the best way to combat some of this is to share actual real human stories,” he added. “Once people connect with these stories … you can’t help but realize that on the human level we are so much more alike than we are unalike.”

For McDonald’s, the partnership helps the fast-food giant highlight a long history of contributing to local communities.

“Our long history with our Latino owners and operators is the very backbone of this project and a major part of our history. It’s what makes telling these stories so important and so powerful,” Williams said. “They are everyday heroes in their communities and have worked tirelessly to not only build their businesses but to truly transform the communities they serve.”

One example of this, she explained, is the McDonald’s Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources scholarship program (HACER) established in 1985 by Hispanic owners and operators, which awards $500,000 in scholarships to Latino students across the country annually.

“Stories inspire people to think bigger, act bolder and connect with everyday leaders in their communities. It’s often easy to forget that, as a company with a presence in communities all across the country, we’re truly comprised of individuals,” Williams said. “These owners and operators are the men and women who have pursued their American Dream and are now lending a hand to the next generation.”

While it’s unclear if this initial partnership will spark further initiatives, the potential for a long-term relationship between McDonald’s and Immigrant Archive Project certainly exists.

“There are hundreds of McDonald’s owners and operators,” Hernandez said. “I certainly hope it does become a long-lasting relationship because it has the potential to be just that. There are so many compelling stories.”

While the brand didn’t directly address the question of whether there are plans for such a long-term partnership, it did hint that future projects may be in the works.

Immigration Archive Project also recently entered into a partnership with Cadillac, which launched around the Oscars and sees the automotive brand sponsoring around 10 Immigration Archive Project segments aligned with the Oscars, March Madness and the PGA Championship.

Hernandez hopes the partnership with McDonald’s can open doors to other future brand partnerships.

“I think others will see the value in what they’re doing with us and see how it can align organically with their brand as well,” he said.

Erik Oster
Erik Oster is a staff writer for Adweek.