Toyota pulls Olympics-related adverts as backlash to Games continues

The extraordinary decision by the country’s top carmaker underlines how polarising the Games have become in Japan

Yuri Kageyama
Monday 19 July 2021 17:16
'Go Home!': Anti-Olympic protesters demonstrate against the IOC in Tokyo

Toyota won't be airing any Olympic-themed adverts on Japanese television during the Tokyo Games despite being one of the International Olympic Committee’s top corporate sponsors, it has been confirmed.

The extraordinary decision by the country's top carmaker underlines how polarising the Games have become in Japan as Covid infections rise ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.

“There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood,” Toyota chief communications officer Jun Nagata told reporters Monday.

Chief executive Akio Toyoda, the company founder's grandson, will be skipping the opening ceremony.

That's despite about 200 athletes taking part in the Olympics and Paralympics who are affiliated with Toyota, including swimmer Takeshi Kawamoto and softball player Miu Goto.

Mr Nagata said the company will continue to support its athletes.

Being a corporate sponsor for the Olympics is usually all about using the Games as a platform to enhance the brand. But being linked with a pandemic-era Games may be viewed by some as a potential marketing problem.

Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, said sponsors each make its own decisions on their messages.

“There is a mixed public sentiment towards the Games,” Takaya said. “I need to emphasise that those partners and companies have been very supportive to Tokyo 2020. They are passionate about making these Games happen.”

Toyota Motor Corporation signed on as a worldwide Olympic sponsor in 2015, in an 8-year deal reportedly worth nearly $1bn (£730m), becoming the first car company to join the IOC’s top-tier marketing program.

The sponsorship, which started globally in 2017, runs through the 2024 Olympics, covering three consecutive Olympics in Asia, including the Tokyo Games.

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