Top Japanese CEO says economic losses from no-fan Tokyo Olympics will be ‘enormous’


Suntory CEO Takeshi Niinami informed CNN Business in an unique interview on Monday that his firm determined towards being a sponsor of the upcoming Tokyo Games, saying it was “too expensive.”

“We thought of being an Olympic partner … but the economics didn’t match up,” mentioned the chief of the Japanese beverage large, which is house to manufacturers comparable to Orangina and Jim Beam bourbon.

Instead of signing on as an official sponsor, Suntory chalked out one other route to extend its visibility through the Games, which begin this Friday: the Tokyo-based firm deliberate to tie up with eating places and bars across the sporting venues to advertise its drinks, and open a number of institutions to serve its merchandise solely.

“I thought that this occasion would be very much a showcase for us,” Niinami mentioned in Tokyo. “I expected a lot of spectators from abroad to visit.”

The current choice by organizers to bar spectators from the Games’ Tokyo venues over public well being issues scrapped these plans.

“The economic losses will be enormous,” mentioned Niinami, estimating that Japanese companies might have loved a roughly 10% hike in gross sales had followers been allowed.

Having no home spectators might value Japan’s economic system 146.8 billion yen ($1.3 billion), based on an estimate by Takahide Kiuchi, an economist on the Nomura Research Institute.

He famous in a June report that “a lot of the anticipated economic profit from the Tokyo Games vanished in March, when it was determined to ban international spectators from touring to Japan” — a transfer Kiuchi projected had already induced economic losses of $1.4 billion.
Suntory CEO Takeshi Niinami during a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2020.

“This is the time [when] we have to think about: what is the value of the Olympics?” mentioned Niinami. “I think the Olympics have been losing [their] value.”

The Tokyo Games have been massively controversial, with numerous protests to cancel the occasion and 1000’s of volunteers pulling out.
Despite Niinami’s shut ties to the Japanese authorities — he’s an economic adviser to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga — the manager does not shrink back from criticizing it. “I don’t know why the Games were not delayed,” he mentioned, noting Japan’s lagging vaccine rollout and Tokyo’s ongoing heat wave. “[They] should be postponed … at least two months.”

A giant wager

This month, Japan confirmed the Olympics would be held below a state of emergency as a result of coronavirus pandemic.

That information was a blow to these, like Suntory, who’d been banking on an uptick in client spending. So far, greater than 60 Japanese companies have spent a document excessive of $3 billion on this yr’s Olympics — and now a lot of them are involved concerning the return on funding.

Asked whether or not he thought the Olympics might nonetheless present a lift for Japanese corporations this summer time, Niinami mentioned: “More and more, I don’t think so.”

Top Japanese CEO says hosting the Olympics amounts to a 'suicide mission'

Some companies have needed to considerably rethink their involvement.

Akio Shinya, managing director of Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest broadcasting tower, informed CNN Business that his firm had deliberated final yr “whether we should become a sponsor under this circumstance.”

Though it later determined to commit, it has since been compelled to name off numerous occasions, together with a torch relay on the skyscraper’s viewing platform supposed to “boost the mood for the Olympics.”

“Because of Covid, it’s not the right time,” mentioned Shinya. “There wasn’t a mood to hold such a fancy festival.”

Nearly 80% of individuals in Japan say the Olympics shouldn’t go forward, based on an Ipsos Mori survey launched final week.
Companies have been conscious of those sensitivities. This week, Toyota (TM), one of many Games’ largest sponsors, mentioned it would not release advertisements associated to the occasion in Japan, selecting as a substitute to run “regular” commercials.

According to the automaker’s North American division, the choice was made out of consideration of “the Covid-19 situation” within the nation.

Toyota won't run Olympics ads in Japan and several sponsors' CEOs will skip the opening ceremony

Michael Payne, former head of selling on the International Olympic Committee, acknowledged the uphill battle for companies. “There’s no point in sugarcoating. You know, this is not an ideal situation,” he mentioned.

But Payne, who created the Olympics’ international sponsorship program some 4 many years in the past, predicts that corporations might “still be pleasantly surprised at the potential legacy benefit that will come from these very difficult Games.”

“There’s still an important opportunity,” he mentioned. “I wouldn’t count it all out yet.”



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