The greatest sporting spectacle in the world gets under way later this week. IOC President Thomas Bach had called Tokyo the ‘best prepared Olympics ever’. The world will watch with bated breath how the organisers battle the looming threat of COVID-19 to conduct a successful Tokyo 2020.
Dr Shigeru Omi, a senior Japanese COVID-19 advisor, termed the holding of the Games during the pandemic as ‘abnormal’ and added that the Olympics would only be safe without fans. However, the Games are happening, and according to a recent decision, a limited number of fans (only domestic) will also attend.
Hosting the Games is a matter of national pride for the host nation. The successful hosting of the 1988 Seoul Olympics announced the arrival of South Korea to a world stage. It instilled a sense of dignity amongst the people and changed the perception of South Korea globally. Beijing 2008 transformed China from a nation that suffered from an inferiority complex to an economic powerhouse with world class infrastructure. The venues – Bird’s Nest and Water Cube - became globally recognised edifices. The Chinese made a statement, and they haven’t looked back since.
Even Tokyo, when it first hosted the 1964 Summer Games, stamped its resurgence post World War II. The Japanese people, through their tenacity and resolve, proclaimed their technological leadership worthy of the global top deck. However, this time public opinion in Japan was divided over whether or not to postpone the Games. While there is still some hushed scepticism, the Japanese will stand together and cheer as the Games get going.
AUGURS WELL FOR BRANDS
The economy of the host nation of the Olympics typically witnesses a boost. This is due to jobs created by infrastructure projects and visits by sponsors, media, athletes, spectators and tourism-related activities in the host city. However, ban on international fans and the fear of COVID has meant that hotels rooms are empty and local business subdued.
About 80 official sponsors, partners and supporters for the Games are a worried lot. They have committed over $4 billion and have stood steadfastly with the organisers. However, the lurking virus, divided public sentiment and limited crowd engagement opportunities are a marketer’s nightmare.
Normally, advertising by the brands would have reached a feverish pitch, but this time, due to the uncertainty, the brands were late to start.
P&G has released its #LeadwithLove campaign with fantastic messaging – ‘Love Leads to Good’, ‘Your Goodness is Your Greatness’. Similarly, Samsung’s ‘Be There’ or Oreo’s ‘Fiercely Together’ campaigns are particularly heart-warming.
Coca Cola is running the ‘Toofan wahi hai jo sab #palatde’ for Thums Up. Airbnb has created an ‘Olympian and Paralympian experiences platform’. It enables athletes to interact, engage and build a personal bond with their supporters. Gold medallist Brandi Chastain will tell you about life at the Games village and the mindset of an Olympic athlete as he or she competes for that elusive medal.
Similarly, elite athletes like Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen and many others share their experiences on the Airbnb platform. Marketers will look forward to achieving their brands’ reach and engagement objectives to make up for lost ground. Global audiences will tune in to official broadcasts through live television, streaming, social media platforms and on-demand services. With over three billion viewers logging in for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Tokyo is likely to see much higher viewership, given a limited in-stadium audience. This augurs well for marketers and brands.
JAPAN’S TECH POWER PLAY
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is a showcasing opportunity for the technological prowess of Japan, especially for 5G technology which has ‘come of age’. Intel wants to deploy ‘new mobility’ solutions, Virtual Reality-based immersive media experiences, cutting-edge smart city applications and advanced broadcasting services’ for the event.
With partners such as NEC, Panasonic, NTT, Toyota playing on their home turf, one can expect large scale deployment of ground-breaking innovations based on Artificial intelligence (AI), e-sports, driverless cars, facial recognition, robotics and such. In 1964, they introduced the world to the ‘Shinkansen – Bullet Train’. What will it be this time?
Tokyo 2020 will mark a tectonic shift in sustainability and climate change initiatives. The medals have been crafted from recycled mobile phones and appliances. The victory podium is made out of recycled material, courtesy a crowd-sourced project by P&G.
Ground transportation will be on electric or hydrogen fuel-cell drive trains, power sourcing for the venues will be green, the Olympic Village Plaza is built using timber from local governments that will be returned for community use and many more such initiatives. The guiding principle is “Be better, together — For the planet and the people”. The organisers are hence attempting net zero emissions.
Finally, Olympics is about athletes and the spirit of sports – ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger). Despite the COVID-related stress, they will be eager to perform in Tokyo. Most of them would have trained a lifetime for one moment of glory. The athletes would be relieved that the Games are finally happening. And we, as sports lovers, can look forward to a sporting extravaganza, inspirational tales of athletes, a peek into Tokyo and the Japanese way of things and the grand opening and closing ceremonies.
(The author is a senior professional in the corporate sector and writes on varied topics that catch his fancy. The views expressed here are his own.)