Toyota is withdrawing its Olympic TV ad in Japan over Covid-19 concerns
Toyota said Monday it had decided not to run Olympic-themed television ads in Japan, a symbolic vote of no confidence by one of the country’s most influential companies just days before the Games began amid a national state of emergency.
The Japanese public has come out strongly against the Games – which have been postponed for a year because of the pandemic – and many fear the influx of visitors from around the world could turn them into a Covid-19 superspreader event that the national one did Efforts to maintain coronavirus levels are wrecking low.
Toyota will not be broadcasting home television commercials during the Games, and its CEO Akio Toyoda will not be attending the opening ceremony, a company spokesperson told local news media during an online press conference.
“Various aspects of these Olympic Games are not accepted by the public,” said spokesman Jun Nagata for the business newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.
The ads will continue to be shown in other markets, Toyota Motor North America said in a statement. “In the USA, the campaign has already been shown nationwide and will continue to be shown as planned with our media partners during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the statement said.
The company has been preparing ads for the event but will not air them amid concerns that emphasizing its connection to the games could create a backlash, said a person familiar with the company’s mindset, who spoke on condition of anonymity. because she was not allowed to speak publicly.
Toyota will continue its commitments to assisting Olympic athletes and providing transportation services during the Games, a spokesman said.
The company’s decision was “a heavy blow to the Olympic Games,” said David Droga, founder of the Droga5 advertising agency.
“You’d think that Toyota would go all-in through thick and thin, but obviously the situation polarized more than we are aware,” he said.
The vast majority of the Japanese public is against holding the games – which are slated to start on Friday – under the current conditions and polls, and many are calling for them to be canceled entirely.
Japanese authorities and Olympic officials have downplayed the concerns, stating that strict precautions against the coronavirus will allow the Games to be played safely.
However, the fears have only increased. This month, Tokyo entered its fourth state of emergency to stop a sudden surge in virus cases as the country faces the more contagious Delta variant. The number of cases, which is still low compared to many other industrialized nations, has exceeded 1,000 per day in the city, raising fears that measures that have successfully contained the spread of the coronavirus may lose their effectiveness.
To make matters worse, news of Olympic staff and athletes were constantly being tested for the disease after arriving in Japan.
Basics of the Summer Olympics
Toyota became a top Olympic sponsor in 2015, joining an elite class of corporate supporters who are paying for the right to display the Games’ iconic rings in their advertisements.
Until the outbreak of the pandemic, the company was one of the most visible supporters of the Olympic Games. In the run-up to the event, a large part of Tokyo’s taxi fleet was replaced by a slim, new Toyota model that prominently featured the company logo next to the Olympic rings. And the company promised to turn the event into a showcase for its technological innovations, including self-driving vehicles that will take athletes through the Olympic Village.
Toyota’s move could lead other brands to follow suit, but some advertising experts are expecting no repercussions.
“If you’re the Coca-Cola guy, I don’t think it’s going to be a retreat – the benefits of a global sponsorship will still work in the US and everywhere else,” Droga said. “It’s different when you’re in the center, actually in Japan, because that’s where the greatest contrast will be where the Olympics are not like the previous Olympics.”
Many companies are afraid to sacrifice more presence, said Rick Burton, professor of sports management at Syracuse University and chief marketing officer of the US Olympic Committee at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
“I suspect they will try to get their way so they don’t lose the investment entirely, ”he said. “There’s an interesting calculation: if I move out, how will that be translated into each language? In some countries it might seem like I did the right thing, but in others it might be that I gave up on the only thing that gave the world hope. “