Toyota Eyes Sustainable Mobility Gold as Long-Term Olympics Sponsor


Toyota Olympics announcement March 13 2015

It’s the first automotive brand to sign on as an Olympics sponsor at its highest level—and Toyota intends to make the most of it.

The Japanese automaker today signed on as top-level sponsor of the Olympic Games, joining other global brands in that club including McDonald’s, Dow, Acer, Coca-Coa, Atos, GE, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung and Visa.

In return for paying a rumored $835 million sponsorship fee to become the exclusive mobility or automotive sponsor in the International Olympic Committee’s top-tier of partners, Toyota executives outlined a range of marketing goals for the 10-year agreement, which runs through 2024.[more]

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach called it “a milestone agreement in the implementation of the Olympic Agenda 2020 because the focus of our cooperation is sustainable mobility, and Toyota will provide sustainable solutions for the entire Olympic Movement.”

Toyoto, by signing a long-term deal as a global Olympic sponsor, hopes the platform will solidify its global comeback; showcase its innovation in sustainability, including its hydrogen-powered cars,; shore up its credibility in the urban mobility realm; and add more buzz and the kind of excitement that amateur race-car driver and CEO Akio Toyoda has been trying to infuse into the company.

“Under this Olympic flag, let us today reaffirm the power of sports to bring people together,” Toyoda affirmed in an appropriately broadminded statement about the biggest global sporting event. “And let us dedicate ourselves to creating a better world by promoting sports in the Olympic spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Akio and team may also end up getting a bargain for becoming only the third Japanese-owned company in the top tier, after Panasonic and Bridgestone.

The deal also marks a comeback for Toyota, which was dragged down by a US recall controversy in 2010 and pummelled by Japan’s devastating natural disasters in 2011.

But the worldwide automotive business arguably has never been more competitive, and so Toyota must find ways to remain in contention for the pole position besides the sales-volume battle it plays out year after year with General Motors and Volkswagen.

Toyota, which has also been a Team USA Olympic sponsor, will see its involvement will kick in fully after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and so lay the groundwork for the host nation brand to play a key role in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

National and global Olympic activities will use exclusively Toyota vehicles. Nor will other carmakers be admitted as TOP sponsors during the 10-year run of the agreement.

What’s more, the Olympics authorities indicated that they will be relying heavily on Toyota to showcase and provide advanced urban-mobility and other logistics services surrounding the Tokyo event and other games. A number of automakers are vying for the lead in both a variety of digital mobility solutions for crowded cities as well as “self-driving” automobiles, an arena where Toyota hasn’t demonstrated any innovation so far.

“Traffic management and traffic is one of the major challenges of the Olympic games,” said IOC president Bach, according to Automotive News. “It’s logical that we are addressing this issue. But we want to have some new thinking.”

So Toyota is likely to bring to bear products such as its three-wheeled, scooter-like i-Road, as well as fresh approaches to the Olympics’ “personal mobility” challenges, the publication said.

Meanwhile, the IOC’s TOP deal will give Toyota a critical platform for demonstrating the capabilities and sustainability features of its hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, where the company has made arguably a bigger bet than any other automaker, and one in direct opposition to the EV crowd headed by Tesla’s Elon Musk.

Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai is expected to figure prominently as an Olympics support vehicle. It helps that the Japanese government is heavily backing fuel-cell vehicles as well.

With this exclusive agreement, Toyota also manages to lock out other automotive brands who may have been particularly interested in upcoming Olympics.

“The deal locks Korean car giant Hyundai out of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games on its home turf,” the Associated Press reported, although of course there would still be the opportunity for other automotive brands to do TV advertising and other marketing in concert with the Olympics. “If Boston wins the right to host the 2024 Olympics, the US car industry would also be shut out.”

The 2020 Olympic Games will be an important stage for Japan to show the world that it’s come back from the stagnation of the “lost decade” of the 1990s and from its position on the leading edge of a demographically ossifying west, as well as unprecedented challenges to Japanese former industrial leaders also including Honda, Panasonic and Sony. Toyota plans to be on that stage as well.


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