Toyota Scraps Plans for Olympics Ads in Japan During Games

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TOKYO—

Toyota Motor Corp.

TM -1.03%

said Monday that it wouldn’t run advertisements in Japan connected to the Olympics during the Tokyo Games starting Friday as concerns in the country grow about the spread of Covid-19.

Toyota and

Panasonic Corp.

PCRFY -2.81%

are the only two Japanese companies among the 14 global Olympics partners—the highest level of sponsorship. In normal times, one of the most valuable benefits of sponsorship is the ability to use the Olympics logo in advertisements. But Toyota, whose headquarters are in central Japan, said it wasn’t planning any advertising connected to the Games in its home country.

The auto maker is adjusting its advertising plans only in Japan, with nothing currently changing in the U.S., according to a spokesperson for NBCUniversal, which is broadcasting the Games on its affiliated television channels and its Peacock streaming platform. No U.S. advertisers have asked NBCUniversal to cancel their Olympics plans, the spokesperson added.

A Toyota spokeswoman said the company has been running an ad titled “Start Your Impossible” in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. In the ad, which mentions Toyota’s Olympics sponsorship, athletes drive a futuristic Toyota car. The spokeswoman said the company decided a while ago not to run the ad in Japan in light of local concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

A company executive in charge of public relations,

Jun Nagata,

told local media Monday that the decision was made because a commercial in Japan advertising Toyota’s ties to the Olympics wouldn’t be properly understood given widespread domestic concerns about the Games.

A number of athletes and officials have tested positive for Covid-19 upon arriving in Japan, just days before the international sporting event is set to begin. Tens of thousands of foreign participants have recently been entering the country, where local vaccination rates remain low and the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading.

Toyota also said its president,

Akio Toyoda,

and other company officials wouldn’t attend Friday’s opening ceremony. The company has said it would continue to supply vehicles to carry athletes and other visitors to Tokyo for the Games.

Olympics organizers have created an archipelago of controlled zones across Japan for about 60,000 foreign visitors including athletes and staff. WSJ’s Alastair Gale visits the Olympic Village to see the challenges of preventing a superspreader event. Photos: AFP via Getty, Bloomberg News/Zuma Press/AP

Write to Peter Landers at peter.landers@wsj.com

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