COVID dashes Toyota’s Olympic ad dreams

Marketing

After five years of waiting and about $1 billion spent to become a sponsor, Toyota Motor Corp. has decided not to run advertisements in its home country connected to the Olympics during the Tokyo Games as concerns grow in Japan about the spread of COVID-19.

Toyota and Panasonic Corp. are the only two Japanese companies among the 14 global Olympics partners — the highest level of sponsorship.

The automaker is adjusting its advertising plans only in Japan, with nothing currently changing in the U.S., a spokesperson for NBCUniversal, which is broadcasting the Games on its affiliated TV channels and its Peacock streaming platform, told Reuters. No U.S. advertisers have asked NBCUniversal to cancel their Olympics plans, the spokesperson added.

A Toyota executive in charge of public relations, Jun Nagata, told local media that the decision was made because a commercial in Japan advertising Toyota’s ties to the Olympics wouldn’t be properly understood given widespread domestic concerns about the Games.

A number of athletes and officials tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Japan, just days before the international sporting event was set to begin.

Tens of thousands of foreign participants have entered the country, where local vaccination rates remain low and the highly contagious delta variant is spreading.

Toyota also canceled plans for President Akio Toyoda and other company officials to attend the opening ceremony. The company has said it would continue to supply vehicles to carry athletes and other visitors to Tokyo for the Games.

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