Sponsors and broadcasters of the Tokyo Olympics have come out in support of the decision to postpone the Games until 2021, saying the decision to prioritise the health of those involved "epitomises the Olympic spirit of peace, friendship and solidarity."
The IOC and Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe officially announced the postponement on Tuesday (March 24), in which they said the Games must be rescheduled to a date "beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021".
The decision was made "to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community," the parties said.
The IOC was under mounting pressure to make a decision on the fate of the summer games—scheduled to take place from July 24 to August 9—after several countries pulled out of participation in recent weeks amid the spread of COVID-19. The virus was declared a global pandemic on March 12. With many athletes confined to their homes and unable to train, and in light of worldwide travel restrictions, the IOC was left with little choice.
The move has major repurcussions on many stakeholders, including the host country, the organisers, brand sponsors—for which this is likely the highest value deal in their calendar—technology partners, broadcasters and social media platforms.
Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Group, which is heavily involved in the planning and operation of the sporting event, said it was "not in a position to comment on this matter". Dentsu Group's shares plummeted to seven-year lows in February amid concerns that the Games would be cancelled. On Monday, shares rose more than 12% on reports that the Games might be postponed rather than cancelled. Dentsu stock gained sharply in Tuesday afternoon trading, closing up another 5% before the Prime Minister's announcement.
Seven West Media, parent company of Seven Network, which has the broadcast rights in Australia, expressed disappointment at the news, but support for the decision to put health first. "We’re disappointed to no longer be able to offer our partners the incredible platform that Tokyo 2020 could provide," said Seven West Media chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette. "Our partners are just as disappointed as us, but completely support that the health and safety of the global community comes first. We’re already working together to explore all options and to help support them in reaching their key audiences now, when messaging is more important than ever."
Twitter, which counts sports as one of its core pillars, is heavily involved in the content distrubution of the event. It has deals with NBCUniversal, the Olympics rights holder in the US, and Discovery's Eurosport, which holds the rights in 16 European markets, to show limited live coverage of the event plus highlights.
A spokesperson told Campaign it is "working closely with partners and clients to adjust plans given the recent announcement".
"It’s an evolving situation for all #Tokyo2020 stakeholders and we have policies and contingency plans in place for partners when events are postponed. We will stay flexible, informed and collaborative on the best approaches going forward," the spokesperson said. Brand sponsors shared the same sentiments of support, and said they will continue to work with the organisers of the Games to ensure 2021 is a safe and successful event.
See below official statements from the Worldwide and Gold Olympic partners:
"As one of the Worldwide Olympic Partners, Alibaba Group stands firm for the postponement of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Despite the delay, such a decision, made amidst the ongoing global fight against COVID-19, is the epitome of the Olympic spirit of peace, friendship and solidarity. We wish health to all, and look forward to a better future for the Olympics, as well as each and every one of you."
"Bridgestone supports the decision made by the IOC and Games organizers to postpone the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. We believe this is the right decision to protect public health and the well-being of global athletes who have sacrificed so much to chase their dreams. Our commitment to the Olympic and Paralympic Movements does not change with this announcement and we look forward to helping these Games unite the world in a celebration of sport and the human spirit after this difficult time. We will continue working collaboratively with the IOC, IPC, Games organizers and our various partners to determine the best path forward and adjust our plans accordingly as more details around the new countdown to Tokyo 2020 become available."
"Our company’s deepest sympathies go out to those whose families and friends have been tragically impacted by the coronavirus. We fully respect the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo Organizing Committee (TOCOG) to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021. We know this decision was made in the best interest of the health, safety and security of all. As the longest standing sponsor of the Olympic Games, we remain committed to working together with the IOC and TOCOG to create a successful and safe event."
"Dow supports the difficult decision that the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee have made in the interest of public health. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and we recognize the impact this postponement will have on the Olympic family, community, fans, host city, and sponsors. We are evaluating what this means for Dow’s sponsorship and we look forward to working with the IOC regarding the details."
"As we are dealing with an unprecedented global situation, Intel remains committed to prioritizing the health and well-being of not only our employees and customers and their families, but of all those who are part of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. With this in mind, we trust and support the IOC, TOCOG and the Japanese government in their decision to postpone the Games to a later date to be determined. We have been preparing for a number of contingencies and remain committed to delivering our technology and innovation, as well as take advantage of any additional time, to ensure the most optimal experience for the Games and improve the value to Intel when they take place."
"Visa commends the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Abe for the decision to postpone the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to 2021. The decision behind postponement reflects a commitment to prioritise the health and well-being of all those involved in the Games. As a proud sponsor of the Olympic Movement for more than 30 years, we will work with the IOC, the Tokyo Organizing Committee (TOCOG), the government of Japan and our partners in the coming months to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 as memorable in 2021 as they would have been this year."
Jessica Goodfellow compiled this report, which also contains reporting from Cindy Gu, Surekha Ragavan and Rahul Sachitanand.
A version of this article first appeared on PRWeek sister title Campaign Asia-Pacific