The Summer Olympics, a combined extravaganza of global athletic and advertising talent, is quickly losing both.
While several athletes have tested positive for the coronavirus and withdrew from the competition, so too has one major advertiser, Toyota. At least in Japan.
According to media reports, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda and other senior executives will not be attending the Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23. Toyoda participated in the recent Olympic Torch Relay.
Toyota shifts out of Summer Olympics
Toyota was planning to run a series of TV ads in Japan featuring the Olympic athletes whom the company sponsors.
Toyota has particularly increased its marketing in the quickly expanding electric vehicle market, with plans to offer approximately 70 electrified models by 2025.
According to the manufacturer’s information released at the Auto Shanghai 2021 expo in China, the new offerings will include 15 fully electric vehicles. Several will carry the carmaker’s new designation “BZ.” It stands for Beyond Zero.
Collectively, five dozen Japanese companies spent more than $3 billion to sponsor the Tokyo Olympics, the largest contribution from an Olympic host nation’s businesses ever.
Toyota is also providing more than 3,000 vehicles to Olympic organizers.
“The media plan for Toyota’s Olympic and Paralympic global ad campaign is managed by individual countries and regions,” read a statement from Toyota Motor North America.
“In Japan, the local Toyota office previously decided not to air the campaign out of sensitivity to the COVID-19 situation in that country. In the U.S., the campaign has already been shown nationally and will continue to be shown as planned with our media partners during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
Olympic organizers reported more than 25 positive coronavirus tests over the weekend among people who had traveled to Japan for the Games – including two athletes and one organizer staying within the Olympic Village, where thousands of participants will soon congregate.
In a poll released Monday by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, 68 percent of respondents said they doubted the ability of Olympic organizers to control coronavirus infections, while 55 percent said they were opposed to the Games going ahead as planned.
Only slightly more than 20 percent of the Japanese public has been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
In addition to TV advertising, many of Japan’s major Olympic sponsors were planning to stage large-scale on-the-ground marketing activities. Those plans were canceled two weeks when Olympic organizers announced spectators would be banned from almost all Olympic venues.
Fifteen Japanese companies, including Asahi Breweries – the official beer of the Tokyo Olympics – paid about $135 million each to become Tokyo 2020 Gold Partners, the most expensive tier of sponsorship offered to local companies for a single Games.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.