|People visit a promotional house run by Samsung Electronics during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil. Samsung is the only Korean brand among the 15 top sponsors for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that will take place from July 23 to Aug. 8. Korea Times file|
Korea's tech giant to remain low key in marketing
By Yi Whan-woo
Samsung Electronics said Wednesday that it will air its Olympic-themed TV commercials as planned during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, scheduled to start Friday.
The decision by the Korean tech giant was announced two days after Toyota, another Olympics sponsor, decided not to run TV commercials during the Games that have been delayed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There will be no suspension of TV advertisements related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," a senior Samsung official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
When asked about the issue, Samsung's corporate communication team said: "Samsung's TV marketing will only take place in Japan, the United States, and a couple of European countries. Those targeted areas were selected after studying whether Olympic marketing can work."
On Monday, Toyota said Toyota Motor Chief Executive Officer Akio Toyoda and other executives would not attend the opening ceremony either.
The Japanese automaker's decision comes as COVID-19 infections, specifically the Delta variant, are soaring in the Japanese capital, which is now under its fourth state of emergency.
Public concern has grown that hosting the event to be attended by thousands of overseas athletes, officials and journalists could accelerate infection rates there and introduce variants that are more infectious and deadlier.
Samsung is the only Korean brand among the 15 worldwide sponsors of the Olympics ― the other 14 are Toyota and Panasonic from Japan ― plus Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Dow, General Electric, Intel, Omega, P&G and Visa.
|Olympic athletes from the United States arrive at Narita International Airport, east of Tokyo, July 1. AP-Yonhap|
Under the Olympic sponsorship program, top-tier membership requires a payment of more than $3 billion to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Samsung started as a local sponsor for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and has been a top sponsor since 1998.
In 2018, the Korean tech giant extended its sponsorship by eight years and will remain in the top-tier until the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
Despite being a top sponsor, Samsung is set to maintain a "low-key profile" in its Olympic marketing given souring bilateral ties with Japan. The firm plans to focus on non-face-to-face marketing in compliance with social distancing rules.
President Moon Jae-in has dropped his attempts to hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during the Olympics after public uproar in Korea over lewd comments made by a senior Japanese diplomat here, who recently described the efforts to improve bilateral relations as "masturbating."
In response, Suga told reporters that the comments were very inappropriate for a diplomat and he felt regret that the remarks were made.
Prior to that, at the Athletes' Village, Team Korea was accused of hanging "anti-Japanese" banners on the balconies outside its athletes' rooms. The banners carried famous words of the 16th-century Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin whose victories were instrumental in repelling Japanese invasions of Korea.
The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has left it up to sponsors whether to carry out Olympic marketing or not amid skepticism about the success of the Games.
"The situation is not favorable for Samsung in terms of moving forward with aggressive Olympics marketing because of the high degree of external and internal uncertainty," a senior industry executive familiar with the issue said.