Tokyo 2020: Sponsorship and Marketing Strategies of Commercial Partners

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are fast approaching. The Euromonitor sports team will be publishing monthly articles focused on different aspects of these global sports events.

In June 2019, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed domestic sponsorship revenue of the games had already surpassed USD3 billion – three times more than any previous summer Olympics. Tokyo 2020 National Sponsorship Tier is comprised of 62 Japanese companies, while Worldwide Olympic Partners is made up of 15 companies, both Japanese and international.

Marketing teams, from the creatives to the analysts calculating campaign reach, are eager to deploy effective activation strategies in order to fully leverage partnerships, and innovative techniques to win the attention of fans throughout the games.

Source: Euromonitor International

Traditional sponsorship activations giving way to more targeted and focused engagement

Sponsorship strategies of global sports events, such as the Olympics, have been going through noticeable changes over recent years. One prominent difference is that brands nowadays are increasingly seeking deeper engagement, compared to the traditional sponsorship model, focused on simply driving brand awareness. Especially for bigger and well-known brands, now it is not enough to focus on logo visibility in the stadium or during broadcasts.

Intelligent sponsorship campaigns now increasingly focus on building strong emotional connections with a limited target audience and leveraging unique partnerships and activations in order to do so. Therefore, activations like Coca-Cola offering the possibility for teenage fans to take selfies with real Olympic medals at Rio 2016 or Adidas having David Beckham showing up at the Olympic Park in London 2012, are expected to remain the order of the day in Tokyo as well.

Environmental and social commitment to highlight marketing efforts at Tokyo 2020

Environmental sustainability, economic empowerment and social inclusion are expected to be the most prominent trends across marketing activities of Tokyo 2020. A good example of this is the IOC’s partnership agreement with Airbnb – the leading short-term rental platform in Japan, accounting for 46% market share, as well as being the fifth largest lodging provider in the country in total. Accommodation for guests of the event, provided by local hosts, is expected not only to reduce costs for the organisers but also to create a sustainable revenue source for residents and communities. Accessible accommodation for people with disabilities is promoted by the campaign as well.

The 2020 Summer Paralympics, starting just after the main Tokyo 2020 event, provides an excellent platform for medical equipment manufacturers to highlight the technological advancements that are enabling Paralympians to break new competitive records. The “Running Clinic”, organised by Ottobock, the German prosthetics company, is taking place in Tokyo following similar activities during both London 2012 and Rio 2016. It allows leg amputees to try a running prosthetic, at the same time receiving running training from accomplished para-athletes. Ottobock will be officially providing technical support during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Healthy living and the fun of sports going hand-in-hand

Healthy living is another focus area of marketing efforts by Tokyo 2020 sponsors. Attention to encouraging people to exercise more and to enjoy sports has been rising during the build-up to the Olympics in Japanese public spaces, with other related topics, such as healthy ageing and nutrition also increasingly hitting the headlines.

Meiji Holdings Co Ltd, the leading packaged food company in Japan as well as Tokyo 2020 Olympic Gold Partner, has been centring its Olympic sponsorship activations on Meiji Tokyo 2020 Fes – an event to promote the healthy development of children through sport and nutrition. Associating benefits of healthy eating with the fun of sports, Meiji has offered interactions with athletes, competitive games and dietary education for the children attending the event.

High-tech activations and connectivity for better enjoyment of sports

The Olympics, as a global sports event, offers a good platform for sponsors to demonstrate advancements and new products in high technology. Alibaba and Intel, both Worldwide Olympic Partners, have announced a partnership to create 3D athletic tracking as well as a 360-degree virtual reality experience, that will be used in Tokyo 2020 for the first time. The system is expected to greatly increase athlete tracking and data extracting possibilities, to lead to better solutions for both athletes and viewers.

Samsung, on the other hand, has been focusing on brand activations already tried and tested for the previous Olympics, with a launch of a limited Galaxy S10+ Olympic Games edition phone in 2019. Claimed to be equipped with some of the most advanced features, the phone features a unique design bearing the Tokyo 2020 logo as well as having the official Olympic wallpaper installed. Samsung is fourth in the portable consumer electronics market in Japan, with a 4.5% retail volume share, and is becoming increasingly popular among Japanese electronics consumers.

It remains to be seen which sponsorship activations will catch the attention or will prove to be the most successful during the Summer Olympics this year, however it is already possible to identify which main directions they will take: targeted engagement, orientation to environmental and social considerations, healthy living, and expansion of technological frontiers.