Tokyo 2020 sponsor Toyota Motor Corporation has decided not to air TV commercials related to the Games in Japan.
It was suggested that the top-tier International Olympic Committee (IOC) sponsor has taken this step to protect its brand image from being damaged, considering the Games are facing strong opposition from the Japanese public amid fears of COVID-19 spike.
Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda and other executives will not attend the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony on Friday (July 23).
“It is true that Toyota will not be attending the opening ceremony, and the decision was made considering various factors including no spectators,” a spokesperson said. “We will not be airing any commercials related to the Games in Japan.”
Toyota joined the IOC’s flagship The Olympic Partner (TOP) worldwide sponsorship programme in 2015, signing up as vehicles, mobility support robots and mobility services partner until 2024.
The company had prepared a TV ad featuring some of the athletes taking part in the Games.
Tokyo 2020 organisers will now anxiously hope that Toyota’s decision will not create a domino effect. Some 60 Japanese corporations have paid more than $3 billion for sponsorship rights to the postponed Games.
The Olympics, due to officially open on Friday under a fourth state of emergency, have failed to garner public support.
“These partners and sponsors must have been struggling to support Tokyo 2020,” admitted the Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya. “Of course, there is mixed public sentiment towards the Games. There must be a decision by each company in terms of how they should be able to convey their messages to the public from its corporate perspective.”
In a poll by Asahi newspaper with four days to go, 68% of respondents are not confident in the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections, while 55% are against the Games going ahead.
The IOC president, Thomas Bach, has however insisted there is “zero risk” of participants at the Games spreading the virus to the Japanese public because of the strict measures in place at the event.
But health experts in the country have warned the Games could become a “super-spreader” event. Shigeru Omi, the Japanese Government’s top COVID-19 advisor, said it’s “abnormal” to stage the Olympics during a pandemic.