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Sponsors jittery, as Covid casts a shadow over Tokyo Olympic 2020

The postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics are expected to start on 23 July.

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New Delhi: As the countdown begins for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, brands sponsoring the mega sports event are treading cautiously. The growing public opinion against the games has compelled brands to reconsider their move to go full throttle with their gaming-linked advertising.

Some Japanese corporates that are sponsoring the international event have even hired consulting firms to advise, whether to proceed with Olympic-themed marketing plans or limit their association with an event that could damage their brands, reported Financial Times. Consultants include Britain’s Kantar Group and Japan-based firms, Macromill Inc and Intage Holdings, as per the report.

The Olympic Games have evolved into one of the biggest marketing extravaganzas in recent times, allowing brands to reach out to global audiences across different platforms. The opportunity remains a lucrative one, despite all the uncertainties this time. Over 60 Japanese companies have together paid more than three billion $ to sponsor the Games this year. Sponsors have paid another $200 million to extend contracts after the Olympics were postponed last year, as per media reports.

There are 15 global giants with exclusive marketing rights under the Olympic Partners program, the highest level of Olympic sponsorship and each one is looking to make the most of the opportunity.

While a decision to cancel the games could be a hefty one, conducting the games amid the pandemic will not be easy either. Japan is battling a fresh surge of infections and it has left people disgruntled over the decision to go ahead with the event. There are imminent concerns about the event might trigger a potential health crisis, with local media calling for scrapping the event entirely.

If local polls are to be believed, most Japanese are now rooting for the postponement of the games yet again, fearing invasion by any new coronavirus variants that could put pressure on an already burdened healthcare system. With just two months left for the games, the country is also scrambling to ramp up its vaccination drive.

If the event goes ahead as per plan, the ongoing pandemic could make sure the event is a diminished one this year. There may not be any on-site brand events and big product launches may be muted, the engagement with the audience will be mostly online. The absence of enthusiastic fans in the stadiums will be felt quite evidently.

Toyota, the official mobility partner, has already expressed concerns over athletes becoming the target of people’s frustration over the event. However, Samsung, the communications partner, has recently gone ahead with the launch of its Galaxy S21 Olympics Games edition of smartphones.

For broadcast, NBCUniversal has announced its plans to broadcast 7,000 hours of Olympics coverage across NBC, USA, CNBC, NBCSN, and Peacock, among other properties. The US broadcaster will air live coverage of some events in 4K HDR. “We are going to deliver the most comprehensive - and accessible - coverage for any sports event in history,” the network said in a statement.In India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) has the broadcast rights for the event. 

While the opportunity to associate with the games is a lucrative one, it remains to be seen how brands are going to pivot to the changing realities and capitalise on it amid the pandemic. 

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to be held from 23 July to 8 August.

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