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Few spectators at Tokyo Olympics: how will it affect brands and sponsors?

The new restrictions also ban alcohol from being served at bars and restaurants

There will be few spectators at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after Japan announced a state of emergency that will last to the end of the global sporting event.

The Japanese government made the decision after Covid-19 infections continue to rise in Tokyo due to the Delta variant.

Organizers had earlier insisted that up to 10,000 fans could enter the sporting venues, but the new restrictions mean spectators at events will be capped at 5,000 people or 50% venue capacity, whichever is less.

The new restrictions also ban alcohol from being served at bars and restaurants, which will have to close by 8pm. Events such as concerts and conferences will have to end by 9pm.

People involved in the Olympics have already started arriving in Japan, but generally will not have to observe a full 14-day quarantine. Instead they will face restrictions during their time in the country, with athletes limited to venues and the Olympic Village and tested daily for the virus.

What does this mean for Olympic sponsors?

For the sponsors of the Olympics, they are still able to get unparalleled reach across countries, devices and channels despite the lack of spectators, explains Otohiko Kozutsumi, the chief commercial officer and co-founder at AnyMind Group.

This is because the Olympics is one of the few global events available today where people from around the world tune in to watch live, he says. There are also replays, highlights and photos of the Games, which will be delivered through various platforms including news media and social media.

“There might have been a missed opportunity, but one that I see will take place in the future, around innovating on the delivery of the Olympics through digital means. Be it through immersive virtual reality, interactive or shoppable sponsor engagement when viewing the Games, or having an app that enables viewers to get a more intimate connection with sponsors and enhancing international understanding through sports,” Kozutsumi says.

“Additionally, there now exists a wave of messaging opportunities for sponsors – whether it’s in supporting international cooperation and fair play through trying times, the advancement of the digital economy and digital trends, or even capturing micro-moments during the Games to further a purpose.”

For example, Rico Chan, the head of Asia Pacific sales at Verizon Media, says creative use of technologies like extended reality (XR) and virtual reality (VR) can bring spectators closer to a physical experience and help them bridge the emotional gap of not being on the sidelines.

"The NBA’s VR experience through Oculus and NFL’s Yahoo Sports Play AR are some of the ways we’ve virtually transported sports fans into stadiums so they can be a part of the action," he explains.

Maina Harjani, account manager at Bud Communications, agrees with Kozutsumi and Chan, adding the pandemic has significantly reduced consumers spending capacity in general and the Olympics will not further drive that because of its current conditions.

“Brands and sponsors in any form of financial investment will not lose out as much as sponsors who will be selling products at the venue,“ she explains.

Check out The Drum’s Sports Marketing hub for more on how the marketing industry can score long-term success through association with sport.

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