Toyota pulls Olympic ads from Japan amid COVID-19 concerns

At least 71 people with Olympic credentials have already tested positive for COVID-19, organizers said

Japan’s top automaker, Toyota, has announced the withdrawal of all Olympic-themed advertisements from airing locally in response to backlash surrounding the rising COVID-19 infection rates as it relates to the Tokoyo Olympics

Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata told reporters Monday that the company will continue to sponsor its athletes during the Games while advertising will be pulled from airing in Japan. 

In this July 15, 2021, file photo, people walk by the Olympic rings installed by the Nippon Bashi bridge in Tokyo.  (AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)

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"There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood," Nagata said. 

While attempting to distance itself from the negativity surrounding the Games, the company’s North American branch said that the advertising strategy in the U.S. will remain the same. 

"The media plan for Toyota’s Olympic and Paralympic global ad campaign is managed by individual countries and regions. In Japan, the local Toyota office previously decided not to air the campaign out of sensitivity to the COVID-19 situation in that country," Toyota Motor North America said in a statement, obtained by The Associated Press.  

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"In the U.S., the campaign has already been shown nationally and will continue to be shown as planned with our media partners during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020."

Toyota is one of the event’s top sponsors, having inked an eight-year deal in 2015 worth an estimated $1 billion. 

The rising cases in Japan have called into question the safety and practicality of the Olympics. At least 71 people with Olympic credentials have already tested positive for COVID-19, including United States gymnastics alternate Kara Eaker. 

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Organizers said that 31 of those cases are individuals either competing or working at the Games. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.