Olympics So Unpopular in Japan, Top Advertiser Toyota Is Pulling Ads from the Country

The Games face increasing ire as concerns around the events spiking Covid cases in Japan mount.
FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2020, file photo, visitor wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks by the logo of Toyota Motor Corp. at its showroom in Tokyo. Toyota won't be airing any Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese TV during the Tokyo Games despite being one of the IOC's top corporate sponsors. The unusual decision by the country's top automaker underlines how polarizing the Games have become in Japan as COVID-19 infections rise ahead of the July 23, 2021, opening ceremony.(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
The Toyota showroom in Tokyo

Toyota Motor Corp., among the key corporate sponsors for the Tokyo Olympic Games, is pulling all of its Olympics-centered TV commercials in Japan. In addition, CEO Akio Toyoda and other senior executives from the company will not be attending the opening ceremony, which takes place on July 23.

The Summer Games have become increasingly unpopular in Japan, where residents fear the Olympics will bring a spike in Covid cases. The pandemic has already caused plenty of disruption for the Games, including rising young tennis star Coco Gauff testing positive (and therefore unable to attend) as well as Serena Williams pulling out — in her case, likely due to an injury she sustained at Wimbledon. More than 25 positive Covid tests were found throughout the weekend among those who traveled to Japan for the Games.

“The Olympics is becoming an event that has not gained the public’s understanding,” a Toyota public relations executive surnamed Nagata said to the Japanese daily newspaper Yomiuri. (Via Reuters.) Still, the Games are set to kick off on Friday even as Covid cases continue to rise in Japan. Tokyo is currently under its fourth state of emergency since the start of the pandemic. Spectators, meanwhile, were banned from nearly all Olympic venues two weeks ago, taking much of the excitement out of the event.

Originally, Toyota had planned to run TV ads in Japan showcasing the Olympic athletes the company sponsors. It’s now being speculated that other business leaders in Japan, which collectively spent more than $3 billion to sponsor the Olympics in Tokyo, will also want to distance themselves from the event. The sponsorship total this year is said to be the largest contribution ever from an Olympic host nation.

Stateside, an NBC Universal spokesperson told IndieWire, Toyota is not adjusting any marketing plans for the Olympics. “The media plan for Toyota’s Olympic and Paralympic global ad campaign is managed by individual countries and regions. 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.”

Vaccine numbers are still low in Japan, where just more than one fifth of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid.

The Tokyo Olympic Games will be broadcast (and live-streamed) in the United States on NBC Universal’s platforms, and the broadcast is said to include more than 7,000 hours of coverage. The Games take place through August 8. Olympic events will also be streamed on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, and NBCSports.com The Games will also be featured on channels including CNBC, Golf Channel, NBC Olympics, NBC Sports Network, Telemundo, and USA.

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