Toyota said on Monday it had decided not to air Olympic-themed TV commercials in Japan, a symbolic vote of no-confidence from one of the country’s most influential companies just days before the Games began in Japan. a national state of emergency context.
The Japanese public have expressed strong opposition to the Games – delayed for a year due to the pandemic – and many fear the influx of visitors from around the world will turn them into a super-spreading Covid-19 event, undermining national efforts to keep coronavirus levels low.
Toyota will refrain from broadcasting home TV commercials during the Games and its chief executive, Akio Toyoda, will not attend the opening ceremony, a company spokesperson told local media at a conference online press release.
“Various aspects of these Olympics are not accepted by the public,” spokesman Jun Nakada said, according to the business daily Yomiuri Shimbun.
The ads will still run in other markets, Toyota Motor North America said in a statement. “In the United States, the campaign has already aired nationally and will continue to air as planned with our media partners during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the statement said.
The company had prepared ads for the event but will not air them due to fears that highlighting its connection to the Games could create a backlash, according to a person familiar with the thinking of the company who spoke under cover of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak. publicly.
Toyota will continue its commitments to support Olympic athletes and provide transportation services during the Games, a spokesperson said.
The vast majority of the Japanese public are opposed to holding the Games – which are due to start on Friday – under current conditions, according to polls, with many calling for their outright cancellation.
Japanese authorities and Olympic officials played down concerns, saying strict coronavirus precautions will allow the Games to run safely.
However, concerns continued to mount. Earlier this month, Tokyo entered its fourth state of emergency in a bid to stop a sudden increase in virus cases as the country grapples with the more contagious Delta variant. The cases, which remain low compared to many other developed countries, have risen to more than 1,000 a day in the city, raising fears that measures that had succeeded in controlling the spread of the coronavirus may lose their effectiveness.
Further complicating the situation was the constant stream of reporting on Olympic staff and athletes who tested positive for the disease after arriving in Japan.
Toyota became one of the main Olympic sponsors in 2015, joining an elite class of partisan companies that are paying top dollar for the exclusive right to display the iconic rings of the Games in their advertising.
Until the pandemic struck, the company was one of the Olympics’ most visible supporters. As the event neared, much of Tokyo’s taxi fleet was replaced with a sleek new Toyota model featuring the company logo alongside the Olympic rings. And the company is committed to making the event a showcase for its technological innovations, including autonomous vehicles to transport athletes around the Olympic Village.