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Toyota will not steer ads away from NBCU's Olympics coverage in US

Toyota Motor Corp. will not run any Olympic-themed ads on Japanese television during the Tokyo Games, but the automaker will still run ads on U.S. networks around the Summer Olympics.

Toyota, one of the International Olympic Committee's top-level global sponsors, said it would forgo running games-themed commercials in Japan amid the pandemic's polarizing sensibilities in its home nation. Surveys indicate many of Japan's citizens are opposed to the Tokyo Games due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and low vaccination rates.

Media plans for Toyota's Olympic and Paralympic global ad campaign are managed by individual countries and regions, Toyota North America said in response to queries from S&P Global Market Intelligence. "In Japan, the local Toyota office previously decided not to air the campaign out of sensitivity to the COVID-19 situation in that country."

Stateside, Toyota Motors North America said its campaign has launched nationally and "will continue to be shown as planned with our media partners during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020."

A spokesperson for U.S. rights holder NBCUniversal Media LLC said Toyota is not adjusting its U.S. Olympic plan: "Nothing has been canceled or altered. Toyota is all systems go."

The spokesperson said no U.S. advertiser has asked to cancel their Olympics ads in the wake of Toyota's decision in Japan.

Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata told reporters in Japan on July 19 that there are many issues with the Games that are "proving difficult to understand," while noting that Toyota would continue to back the athletes it supports.

The Japanese government issued a state of emergency, running from July 12 through Aug. 22, which, among other things, closed the door on in-person attendance for most events.

Originally slated for last summer, the Tokyo Games were postponed by the health threats posed by the pandemic. But given continuing economic uncertainty stemming from the virus, a number of Olympic advertisers withdrew their commitments. In turn, most took the option to restart negotiations for the rescheduled games from scratch, leading NBCU to rebuild its ad roster and secure about $500 million in new business.

At an Olympic preview event in Manhattan on June 23, NBCU executives said national linear and digital ad sales were approaching the $1.25 billion level it reached in March 2020, just prior to the pandemic-driven postponement. They expected sales to exceed that mark by the rescheduled opening ceremony on July 23. By comparison, NBCU secured $1.2 billion in national linear and digital ad sales for the 2016 Summer Games from Rio de Janeiro. Amid the reshuffling, NBCU struck Olympic deals with more than 120 advertisers through late June, versus the 100-plus it had for the 2016 Games.

NBCU, which is paying $1.4 billion for multiplatform rights in the U.S. for the upcoming competition, plus production costs, did not supply an update on its current Olympic sales level.

Other Olympic revenue sources include local station ad sales and distribution revenues from traditional and virtual providers carrying NBCU's Olympics package.

At an investor conference last month, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said the Tokyo Games could be the company's most profitable to date. NBCU scored $250 million in profits from the Rio Olympics.

Toyota in March 2015, inked a The Olympic Partner deal with the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee in the newly created mobility category from 2017 through 2024, covering three Asia-based events — the Pyeongchang Winter Games, the Tokyo Olympics and the Winter Games from Beijing in 2022 — for a reported $1 billion.

About 60 Japanese companies have reportedly paid upward of $3 billion for sponsorship rights to the rescheduled Summer Games.

Japan has over 842,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and just under 15,000 deaths from the pandemic, and 21.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.