Toyota Pulls Tokyo Olympics Ads

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The company may be concerned that associating with the games could hurt its image.

Japanese car manufacturer Toyota has remained one of the steadfast sponsors of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in spite of the concerns and controversy it remains mired in. As the Olympic games are, naturally, a massive event that draws worldwide attention, any large brand would want to run ads during it, at least in normal times. However, current times have proven themselves to be anything but normal, which is why Toyota has to play a bit more defensively with their branding.

Toyota announced today that all of their TV commercials that were slated to include references to the Olympics, as well as appearances by Olympic athletes, have been cancelled. Additionally, Toyota’s CEO, Akio Toyoda, will not be in attendance during the game’s opening ceremony this Friday. While no official reason was given for these events, business analysts have a hunch that the company is concerned about being associated with such a controversial Olympic games.

“The Olympics is becoming an event that has not gained the public’s understanding,” a Toyota public relations executive told Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper.

Indeed, in the months leading up to the Olympics, the majority of Japanese citizens were of the belief that holding them would present a COVID-19-related danger to both citizens and Olympic athletes. While this opinion cooled slightly after the Olympic committee announced they’d be letting spectators in, it immediately heated back up after new surges of COVID in Japan prompted them to walk back that decision.

According to a poll conducted by Japanese newspaper Asahi, 68% of respondents don’t believe the Olympic committee can safely prevent COVID infections among the athletes, and 55% believe the games cannot be held as is. Indeed, as of writing, there have already been 25 reported cases of COVID within the Olympic village, including staff and athletes.

Analysts are keeping a close watch on the games’ other major sponsors to see if they’ll follow Toyota’s example.

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