Pivot or pause? With the 2020 Games postponed, Olympics sponsors are adapting their ads

When Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in late March that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics had been postponed until next year, the International Olympic Committee’s 14 global sponsors faced an unusual marketing decision: Simply put the campaigns they worked on for the past two years in a drawer, ready to be opened again in 2021; or to adapt their plans but continue promoting their official Olympic partner status. Some sponsors — such as Toyota and Visa — have developed Olympics ads and social media activity that reflects the current coronavirus situation, while others, like Coca-Cola, have simply postponed. “When brands go for a sponsorship deal, it’s not necessarily just a campaign, it’s more of a long-term play,” said Rory Stewart-Richardson, founder of online sponsorship marketplace Connexi. Sponsors spend upwards of $100 million for a four-year stint in The Olympic Partners program, which gives them category-exclusive global marketing rights for the summer, winter and youth Olympic Games. The current partners are: Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Alibaba, Atos, Bridgestone, Dow, GE, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Toyota and Visa. With much of that cost already sunk, some marketers are seeing a benefit in proudly trumpeting their Olympic partner status — though the experts and executives Digiday spoke to for this piece said actual advertising spending will understandably be minimal versus if the Games had taken place.

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