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Toyota set to end massive Olympic sponsorship deal

TOKYO (AP) — Vehicle manufacturer Toyota is set to end its massive sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee after this year’s Paris Olympics, according to reports in Japan.

Toyota has a contract through the 2024 Paris Games, which was reported to be valued at USD835 million when it was announced in 2015. It included four Olympics beginning with the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games in South Korea and ran through Paris.

It has been widely reported to be the IOC’s largest sponsorship deal.

Citing “sources close to the matter,” Japanese news agency Kyodo said Toyota was unhappy the way sponsorship money was used by the IOC. The news agency, quoting the sources, said the money was “not used effectively to support athletes and promote sports.”

Reached by the Associated Press, Toyota declined to comment and said financial details were private.

Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda (left) and IOC President Thomas Bach pose with a signed document during a press conference in Tokyo, on March 13, 2015. PHOTO: AP

Toyota pulled its Olympic advertising in Japan during the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021. It said it was responding to strong public sentiment in the country against staging the Olympics and the IOC’s push to hold them.

The IOC did not comment on the reports when contacted by AP.

“We have an agreement with Toyota until the Olympic Games Paris 2024,” the IOC said. “We continue to work closely together in preparation for Paris and we look forward to bringing these plans to life.”

Toyota is supplying 3,000 fuel-cell vehicles for the Paris Games to show off its green technology.

The IOC generates 91 per cent of its income from selling broadcast rights (61 per cent) and sponsorships (30 per cent).

The IOC had income of USD7.6 billion in the last four-year cycle ending with the Tokyo Games. The IOC’s 15 so-called TOP sponsors paid over USD2 billion in that period. The figure is expected to reach USD3 billion in the next cycle.

“There’s no sports property that touches as many bases as the Olympics in truly every country,” Rick Burton, who teaches sports marketing at Syracuse University, told Associated Press. “You have high brand recognition. You just don’t have other sports properties that gives you that.”

Burton said the IOC was likely to find another vehicle brand if Toyota bows out. He said the best look would be finding a replacement quickly.

In addition to Toyota, the TOP sponsors are: ABInBev, Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, and Visa.

Japan officially spent USD13 billion on the Tokyo Olympics, at least half of which was public money. A government audit suggested the real cost was twice that. The IOC contribution was about USD1.8 billion.

The Tokyo Games were mired in corruption scandals linked to local sponsorships and the awarding of contracts. Dentsu Inc, the huge Japanese marketing and public-relations company, was the marketing arm of the Tokyo Olympics and raised a record-USD3.3 billion in local sponsorship money. This is separate from TOP sponsors.

French prosecutors also looked into alleged vote-buying in the IOC’s decision in 2013 to pick Tokyo as the host for the Olympics.