"One of the changes likely to occur after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be the relationship between sports and corporate sponsors," sportswriter Nobuya Kobayashi tells Nikkan Gendai (Aug 12).
At the Games that just ended, Japanese athletes took an all-time high total of 58 medals, including 27 gold. While Japan showed strength in such endeavors as judo, gymnastics, table tennis and wrestling, results in other events such as swimming (led by top star Daiya Seto), badminton (Kento Momota), and tennis (Naomi Osaka) were disappointing. And the companies that had sponsored athletes in these events clearly felt let down.
Osaka is known as the world's highest paid female athlete, with contracts totaling 6.6 billion yen. Among Seto's sponsors are Ajinomoto and All Nippon Airways. Momota had signed a contract with NTT East Japan.
Mixed into the equation is the low viewer rating for the Games broadcast by America's NBC, which is also likely to influence how the situation will change.
"The support of athletes by sponsors, such as what sport and which athlete to sponsor -- not to mention the amount on the contract -- is going to undergo a lot of scrutiny that may lead to reducing the amount," Kobayashi predicts.
The respective teams themselves are also perplexed over whether their star athletes emerged as winners or losers.
Since September 2013, when it was decided that Tokyo would host the Games, the Japanese government budgeted more funds to sports, to the tune of 10 billion yen per year or higher. From next year's budget, major cuts will be inevitable.
One sport likely to be singled out for cuts, according to the Sports Agency, will be badminton. Although previously accorded a high-priority "S" ranking, Japanese competitors only came away with a single bronze medal in the games, making a downgrade almost a certainty.
Needless to say, while tennis pros Osaka and Kei Nishikori continue to participate in worldwide tennis competitions, their contributions to Japan's medal count was nil, and hope of any increase in budget outlays for tennis is dim.
On the other hand, "urban" sports, such as skateboarding and sports climbing, are likely to command new support, with 22-year-old Yuto Horigome having taken the men's gold, and 13-year-old skateboarder Momiji Nishiya becoming the youngest Japanese female to take a gold medal in Olympic competition.
Unlike baseball and soccer, Japan has few exclusive facilities for skateboarding, which commands a worldwide market of 100 billion yen. Companies are already said to be lining up to arrange for commercial endorsements.
"The popularity of a given sport in Japan depends on whether or not Japanese win Olympic medals," says Professor Katsuhiro Miyamoto of Kansai University. "When Japanese excel at a sport, people's level of interest increases, and this, I think, is what leads to sponsorship. For skateboarding, there are expectations that Japan will do well at the Paris Olympics three years from now, and in other international competitions. Middle school students in their early teens, like Momiji Nishiya and (silver medalist) Kokona Hiraki, are likely to collaborate in endorsements for confections and beverages."
Kyoto's MK Taxi Group has already signed three-year contracts with skateboarders Misugu Okamoto, 15, and Kensuke Sasaoka, 22, although the size of the remuneration was not made public.
"In 2020 we observed the company's 60th anniversary and as a way of embarking on a new beginning, we wanted to emphasize with their stoic style and aim to take on the world," Shinichi Higashi of the MK Group's Corporate Planning Division tells Nikkan Gendai. "Our supporting of skateboarders ought to resonate in the U.S., where the sport is popular, and serve as overseas publicity as we channel our energies into tourism and overseas business development."© Japan Today