Olympic sponsor Toyota pulls Games-related TV ads in Japan

Jul 18, 2021, 1:02 PM | Updated: Jul 19, 2021, 9:00 pm

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota won’t be airing any Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese television during the Tokyo Games despite being one of the IOC’s top corporate sponsors.

The extraordinary decision by the country’s top automaker underlines how polarizing the Games have become in Japan as COVID-19 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.

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 emphasize that those partners and companies have been very supportive to Tokyo 2020. They are passionate about making these Games happen.”

The company has no plans to adjust its Olympic marketing plans in the U.S.

“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,” Toyota Motor North America said in a statement. “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.”

Toyota Motor Corp. signed on as a worldwide Olympic sponsor in 2015, in an 8-year deal reportedly worth nearly $1 billion, 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.

The Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by a year, are going ahead despite the Japanese capital being under a state of emergency.

It’s already virtually a made-for-TV Olympics with most events, including the opening ceremony, going ahead without fans in the venues. Some dignitaries, such as IOC President Thomas Bach and Emperor Naruhito, are likely to attend.

Toyota is one of the most trusted brands in Japan. The maker of the Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models prides itself on its quality controls, with its “just in time” super-efficient production methods praised and emulated around the world.

Public opinion surveys reflect widespread concern among Japanese people about having tens of thousands of Olympic participants enter the country during a pandemic. Some already have tested positive for COVID.

Motoyuki Niitsuma, a manufacturing plant worker who was banging on a bucket in a recent Tokyo protest against the Olympics, said he didn’t like the idea of cheering for the national team, and the pandemic has made that message clear.

“The time to compete is over. Now is the time to cooperate,” he said. “We should never have gotten the Games.”

___

AP Videographer Johnson Lai contributed to this report.

___

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/Olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Houston guard Marcus Sasser exits the game after sustaining an injury to his face during the first ...
Associated Press

Francis scores 14 as No. 1 Houston downs North Florida 76-42

HOUSTON (AP) — Ja’Vier Francis scored 14 points, star Marcus Sasser had 12 points in the first eight minutes before leaving with a cut over his eye, and top-ranked Houston coasted to a 76-42 win over North Florida on Tuesday night. Sasser, who entered the game averaging 17.5 points, made two 3-pointers early as the […]
19 hours ago
Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry (7) defends against Detroit Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) durin...
Associated Press

Pistons run away in 2nd half, embarrass Heat 116-96

MIAMI (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 31 points, Alec Burks added 18 and the Detroit Pistons pulled away in the second half to beat the Miami Heat 116-96 on Tuesday night. Saddiq Bey scored 14, Isaiah Stewart had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Cory Joseph also finished with 11 points for the Pistons, who […]
19 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is defended by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10...
Associated Press

Mitchell’s 43 lead Cavs to 116-102 win over LeBron, Lakers

CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored a season-high 43 points and Jarrett Allen returned from injury to add 24, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 116-102 win on Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Lakers in LeBron James’ only visit home this season. With Anthony Davis missing the final three quarters because of illness, the […]
19 hours ago
Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby falls to the ice as he gets a shot past Columbus Blue Jackets go...
Associated Press

Crosby scores twice as surging Penguins roll by Columbus 4-1

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby had two goals, Bryan Rust scored for a second straight game and the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled away from the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Tuesday night. Crosby pushed his goal total to 15 by beating Elvis Merzlikins twice in the second period as the Penguins remained unbeaten against Columbus in […]
19 hours ago
Georgia guard Kario Oquendo drives past Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant during the first half of...
Associated Press

Miles Kelly leads Ga. Tech to 79-77 win over rival Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) — Miles Kelly hit a huge 3-pointer and then a drove for the game-winner as Georgia Tech rallied to beat Georgia 79-77 on Tuesday night, taking advantage of a nightmarish final minute for Bulldogs guard Terry Roberts. Roberts missed a 3-pointer, turned the ball over twice with bad passes, and was called for […]
19 hours ago
New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13) is congratulated for his goal against the Chicago Black...
Associated Press

NHL-leading Devils shut out struggling Blackhawks

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Defenseman Dougie Hamilton had a goal and two assists, Vitek Vanecek made 24 saves for his second shutout and the NHL-leading New Jersey Devils defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 on Tuesday night. Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt scored goals and Jack Hughes had two outstanding assists for the Devils, who are […]
19 hours ago
Olympic sponsor Toyota pulls Games-related TV ads in Japan