Five B2B brands driving innovation ahead of Tokyo 2020


It’s been nearly 18 months since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Olympic Games. There’s a quiet energy in Japan; the country is excited for the grandest sporting spectacle in the world to arrive in a little over five years’ time.

For the organisers of the Games, there’s no time to bask in the glory of beating off Madrid and Istanbul – they’ve spent the last year and a half laying the foundations for what is now a five-year sprint to ensure Tokyo plays host to a successful competition that surpasses those that have gone before – and that helps Japan continue its economic recovery.

Selecting the right help

Hosting the Games is no mean feat, as my fellow Frameworkers in London will recall. Though I’d yet to arrive in the UK in 2012, I, along with everyone else around the world, saw how successful London 2012 was. But what you don’t necessarily see from outside the country is the extent of the work that goes into preparing the host city – and the rest of the country. The cost of London 2012 was an estimated £9 billion – a phenomenal figure. It might make you wonder why countries bother bidding for the Games – but the long-term benefits can be manifold.

Japan's Olympic team celebrate victory. Japan's Olympic bid team celebrate victory.

That’s why it’s crucial that organisers bring in the right help. James has spoken before about the shifting role of brands in sports sponsorship and this is especially evident in the planning and execution of the Olympic Games. Brands selected for these long-term, multi-year partnerships no longer just pay to have their names splashed across communications – they have to provide a service and financial support for the event (Tokyo 2020 expects to collect ¥150 billion, or £855.7 million, from its top-tier sponsors to offset the cost of the Games). With that in mind, Tokyo 2020 recently selected 10 “Gold Partners”. Each company is based in Japan and the 10 brands span industries like retail, electronics and financial services. Here’s how five B2B companies are using their skills for the benefit of the Games – and the rest of Japan.

Christel Takigawa gives a speech at the bid reveal. Christel Takigawa gives a speech at the bid reveal.

1. NEC

IT and electronics giant NEC was selected as an official partner in February and will support the Games by providing “specialist public safety equipment and software” and “network equipment”. When it comes to assisting sports events, NEC’s strengths lie in its ticketing solutions and arena infrastructure services. The firm deployed such solutions in a number of Brazilian stadiums for the FIFA World Cup last year, including IP and wireless networks, stadium control centres and security systems.

For the 2020 Games, the firm is reportedly developing a ticketing solution that enables punters to gain access to the stadium – and also doubles up as a city-wide travel and tourism card, with consumers able to load various tickets onto one card or mobile app. Consolidating travel and tourism into one solution is a shrewd move ahead of Tokyo welcoming millions of overseas visitors – and could well remain in place once the Games have concluded.

The proposed Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. NEC is likely to deploy its solutions at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, which is yet to be built.

2. Toshiba

Tourism is a growing industry in Japan. The number of visitors from across the world is steadily increasing – a record 13.4 million tourists flocked to the country in 2014 and nearly 1.4 million people visited in February alone this year. The influx of global visitors for the Olympics will no doubt be far higher. Tourism is increasingly valuable, too: visitors spent more than ¥2 trillion (£68.5 billion) in 2014.

So it’s no surprise that Olympics “Gold Partners” are focusing on advancing the industry. Technology stalwart Toshiba, which is not officially a Games partner (yet), is attempting to boost tourism by developing translation software in order to make Japan more accessible for those who don’t speak or read the language. The firm has formed a committee with fellow Japanese companies NTT, KDDI, Hitachi and Panasonic to this end with the Games in mind. If the band of tech firms can bring mature software to market, it could drive Japan’s record visitor levels even further by breaking down the language barrier.

3. Nomura

Japan boasts the world’s third largest economy – and Lawrence has spoken before about the business opportunities in the country. But it’s been a struggle in recent years. Japan’s economy slipped into a technical recession towards the end of 2014, but the gloom looks to be lifting slightly. The Bank of Japan said this month that the country’s recent rally looks set to continue, albeit moderately.

The economic climate makes Nomura’s role in supporting Tokyo 2020 crucial. The financial services and consulting firm has not explicitly laid out its strategy as a “Gold Partner” yet, but CEO Koji Nagai has already hinted that Nomura intends to use the Games to jumpstart the economy, capitalising on the “significant economic benefits” the Olympics brings host countries.

4. Nippon Oil

As a “Gold Partner” in “oil, gas and electricity supply services”, Japan’s largest oil company Nippon Oil has an important role to play in the delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, by providing the aforementioned amenities for everything from vehicles to stadiums.

The company, better known to the Japanese public as ENEOS (the brand under which it offers its products and service stations), is also investing in more sustainable forms of energy – and it’s this, along with its core offerings, that the Games is interested in. Nippon Oil recently moved to the development of hydrogen energy and Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori remarked on the importance of using the Games to promote this greener society. It’s a pertinent vision four years on from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

5. NTT

Almost all of us own a smartphone and have access to information anywhere. That’s great, but it can also cause problems. There were a number of stories throughout London 2012 regarding the potential risks of these new “Social Olympics”; with peak mobile traffic hitting approximately 1.7 gigabits a second in and around the arenas alone, questions were asked about whether mobile networks could handle such traffic.

Japanese telecoms giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) was the first “Gold Partner” to be announced, highlighting the importance of effectively managing this data – and protecting it. NTT President and CEO Hiroo Unoura remarked that the volume of data transmitted in London 2012 was eight times larger than that of the 2008 Games in Beijing, giving an indication of the task facing the company in 2020. NTT’s other remit is security, which goes hand in hand with data management, and Unoura has asserted that the company “will ensure the highest degree of cyber-security” across its networks.

Looking good

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are far more than a four-week festival of sport. The preparation for what is the largest sporting event in the world is crucial because of the cultural impact both within the host country and further afield. Japan is at the start of an upward curve, and with the team of brands the organisers have on board for the Games the country looks well placed to claim gold for its hosting in five years' time.

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