Toyota pulls all Games-related TV commercials
Toyota won't be airing any Olympic-themed advertisements on Japanese television during the Tokyo Games despite being one of the IOC's top corporate sponsors.
The extraordinary decision by the country's top automaker underlines how polarizing the Games have become in Japan as COVID-19 infections rise ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.
"There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood," Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata told reporters on Monday.
Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, the company founder's grandson, will be skipping the opening ceremony. That's despite about 200 athletes taking part in the Olympics and Paralympics who are affiliated with Toyota, including swimmer Takeshi Kawamoto and softball player Miu Goto.
Nagata said the company will continue to support its athletes.
Being a corporate sponsor for the Olympics is usually all about using the Games as a platform to enhance the brand. But being linked with a pandemic-era Games may be viewed by some as a potential marketing problem.
Masa Takaya, a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, said sponsors each make their own decisions on their messages.
"There is a mixed public sentiment toward the Games," Takaya said. "I need to emphasize that those partners and companies have been very supportive to Tokyo 2020. They are passionate about making these Games happen."
Toyota Motor Corp signed on as a worldwide Olympic sponsor in 2015, in an eight-year deal reportedly worth nearly US$1 billion, becoming the first car company to join the IOC's top-tier marketing program.
The sponsorship, which started globally in 2017, runs through the 2024 Olympics, covering three consecutive Olympics in Asia, including the Tokyo Games.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has decided not to visit Japan for the Tokyo Games, citing a failure to set up a summit with Japan's prime minister that would produce meaningful results in improving relations.
Moon's office said on Monday that officials from Seoul and Tokyo held talks over long-standing disputes about wartime history and a "future-oriented" development of their relations, but did not find enough common ground to support a summit between their leaders. The countries had been discussing the possibility of Moon visiting Tokyo and having talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga about repairing bilateral ties.