Japanese sponsors fear brand damage from Tokyo Olympics

Corporate sponsors of the Tokyo Olympics have hired marketing consultants to determine whether a direct association with the Games would harm their brands.

According to people working directly with some of the Games’ 47 major sponsors, Japanese companies have asked advisers if they should adopt Olympic imagery. The alternative is to proceed with minimal reference to an event that has generated more than $ 3 billion in sponsorship after polls suggested more than half of the Japanese public believe the Games should be canceled.

The consultants, who according to people close to several sponsors included Kantar, Macromill and Intage, were recruited as the companies approach the six-week countdown to the opening ceremony.

The brand, said an advertising official involved in preparations for the Games, represented a “point of no return” beyond which companies would incur costs for canceling advertising campaigns.

A person close to the Japan Advertisers’ Association, which has 272 member companies, admitted that Olympic sponsors were struggling to achieve the marketing benefits they initially anticipated.

“The companies had hoped to increase their brand value by sponsoring a major global sporting event, but it is becoming difficult to actively promote their sponsorship of the Tokyo Olympics,” the person added.

A person working as an advisor to one of the 14 global sponsors said that because the decision to to embrace the Olympics or not was so finely balanced that some companies had developed two campaigns and would decide which one to use at the last minute.

“They are waiting to see if opposition to the Games starts to wane, because if it does not, they fear the Games will damage their brands,” said an advertising official working with an Olympic sponsor.

“Meanwhile, most of the campaigns have come to a halt when you expected them to escalate.”

Among the gold partner sponsors, sportswear company Asics and dairy and soft drink group Meiji Holdings recently ran television commercials featuring athletes who are slated to compete in the Olympics.

In the case of the Asics ad, the Olympic rings only appeared briefly in a corner at the end of the ad.

Meiji said he was investigating the impact of Olympic sponsorship on his brand, but his existing ads were not based on the results of that research.

Another sponsor, who declined to be named, said he had not yet decided to run Olympics-themed ads, but was monitoring public opinion closely.

Asics did not respond to a request for comment.

At least one sponsor who produces consumer goods has been told that there is little benefit from a campaign that tried to play heavily on Olympic associations.

A seasoned advertising industry executive involved with several corporate sponsors said the two main considerations would be the decision to whether spectators will be allowed, which is expected around June 24, and private polls on the level of public opposition to the Games.

As Japan’s immunization program accelerates, national media opinion polls have shown opposition to hosting the Games on July 24 has risen from around 80% a month ago to 62% in a recent poll.

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