Toyota leaves Pyeongchang podium to South Korean rivals

International Olympic Committee staff attend a meeting ahead of Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, where sponsor Toyota is far from center stage. (Reuters)
Updated 12 February 2018
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Toyota leaves Pyeongchang podium to South Korean rivals

PYEONGCHANG: For a major new Olympics sponsor, Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. is oddly invisible at the Pyeongchang winter Games.
Unlike other top global sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Visa, Toyota is nowhere to be seen, having sent only a few dozen representatives to South Korea for the event.
Its cars are missing from Olympic fleets, the logo is nowhere to be seen and only visiting Toyota officials from other countries such as the US, whose teams it separately sponsors, can wear Olympic rings on their clothing here.
That’s because Toyota realized before signing with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) almost three years ago that these Games, like the South Korean car market, would always belong to Toyota’s local rivals, Hyundai and Kia .
“Toyota felt that giving up some of our benefits from these partnerships at Pyeongchang 2018 was the right thing to do after conferring with the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee,” a Toyota spokesman said.
Toyota signed its nine-year deal with the IOC in 2015, after Pyeongchang was awarded the Games, the result of a 10-year campaign that had been backed by Hyundai and Kia which were already in separate sponsorship talks with local organizers.
Toyota still has the right as global IOC sponsor to use the Olympics logos in its advertising elsewhere in the world, and it did so prominently this month in two commercials during the US Super Bowl, when a 30-second ad can cost $5 million.
The Japanese firm’s marketing during the Pyeongchang Games, which formally opened on Friday, will be seen in 30 countries — though not in South Korea, a market where foreign carmakers have long struggled, especially those from Japan.
Instead, Hyundai and its affiliate Kia are making the most of their domestic sponsorship rights, having signed their own separate deals with the Pyeongchang Games organizing committee.
They have erected pavilions in Olympic venues to show off their latest-technology vehicles, including Hyundai’s hydrogen-fueled autonomous vehicles.
Hyundai, whose distinctive all-black pavilion was designed by British architect Asif Khan, has provided 4,100 cars and shuttle buses for the IOC to use for its VIPs and athletes.
Hyundai declined to comment.
The Pyeongchang organizing committee referred questions to the IOC, which said in an email to Reuters: “In the short term, we worked in partnership with Toyota to enable Pyeongchang to continue their local sponsorship agreement which will provide additional support to the local organizers.”
Toyota’s readiness to give up on sponsorship rights in South Korea underlines the tough nature of the market for foreigners, especially for exporters from Japan, a former colonial power that still inspires ill feeling among South Korean consumers.
Imported cars make up about 15 percent of the market, and these are mostly from European makers, South Korean industry data show. Toyota has been in the market since 2001 and its brands accounted for barely a tenth of imports last year.
Insisting on the domestic rights might not only have been futile from a marketing perspective, it could have backfired.
David Krysiek, chief executive of Atlanta-based brand communications firm Brandware, said Toyota avoided “the disastrous prospect of being seen as a carpet-bagger in Korea.”
Toyota can at least count on dominating at the next Olympics, the summer Games in Tokyo in 2020, but the one after that could prove tricky: the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing.
China, parts of which were also colonized by Japan, is another auto market that is tough for Japanese firms, but it is the world’s largest and Toyota has no plans to take a step back from the domestic sponsorship rights, as it did in South Korea.
In 2012, Japanese car sales in China nose-dived during a flare-up in a territorial dispute between the two nations. Thousands of Japanese-brand cars were vandalized and mobs attacked dealerships in several cities.
Sentiment has since recovered, and Toyota has set an upbeat sales forecast in China for this year.
“Right now things are more or less back to normal, but we are still handicapped by the past,” said the head of a major Japanese carmaker’s China operations, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
He said “normal” meant that about 10 percent of Chinese consumers would not contemplate buying a Japanese car.
Rob Prazmark, chief executive of 21 Sports & Entertainment Marketing Group, who helped create the IOC top sponsors program, said there was also little risk in China that Toyota would be seen to be gatecrashing a party meant for local carmakers.
“China has its own local auto industry but it’s not like what Hyundai and Kia means to Korea,” he said.


US won’t send officials to China’s Belt and Road Forum

Updated 24 April 2019
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US won’t send officials to China’s Belt and Road Forum

  • Leaders from 37 countries and officials from dozens more are expected to attend the Belt and Road Forum from Thursday to Saturday
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists at a briefing last week that US diplomats, state government representatives and members of the business community would be attending the forum

BEIJING: Washington will not send officials to a Beijing summit on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature global infrastructure project, the US embassy said Wednesday amid a raft of disputes between the two powers.
Leaders from 37 countries and officials from dozens more are expected to attend the Belt and Road Forum from Thursday to Saturday, but Washington has dismissed the initiative as a “vanity project.”
“The United States has no plans to send officials from Washington to the Belt and Road Forum,” a US embassy spokesperson told AFP in an email.
“We call upon all countries to ensure that their economic diplomacy initiatives adhere to internationally-accepted norms and standards, promote sustainable, inclusive development, and advance good governance and strong economic institutions,” the spokesperson said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists at a briefing last week that American diplomats, state government representatives and members of the business community will be attending the forum.
At the first Belt and Road summit in 2017, the US was represented by White House adviser Matt Pottinger.
Since then, more countries have signed up to Belt and Road, most notably Italy, which became the first G7 nation to join the global scheme that aims to link Asia to Europe and Africa through massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects.