Sports Fest 1

Mitsui Fudosan won the rights to be the Japan Olympic Committee’s exclusive real estate Tokyo 2020 Gold Partner. That shuts out companies like Mitsubishi Jisho (Mitsubishi Estate, in English) from marketing themselves using the Tokyo 2020 logos, or even the word, Olympics, and of course, the five-ring Olympic logo.

But there are ways companies get around the strict licensing rights dictated by the IOC. They market themselves by association.

From August 4 to 22, Mitsubishi Jisho sponsored Sports Fes Marunouchi, essentially in the middle of the Ginza, Tokyo’s established business, entertainment, shopping district, very near the famed red-bricked Tokyo Station. The Sports Fes featured over two weeks of athletic displays, Olympian appearances, and interactive sporting activities, all on the most expensive streets in Japan.

Sports Fest 2

On the Sunday afternoon I went, I saw people watching the Rio Olympics on the big screen, as well as adults and kids testing to see how high they can jump, how low they can extend their arms, how fast they can throw a basketball. And I got to see London Olympian and fencing silver medalist, Kenta Chida, in a display of fencing so close, I could have jumped into the match from my front-row seat.

Sports Fest 3

Except on the large-screen TV where NHK was broadcasting the 2016 Rio Olympics, you didn’t see the word Olympics, or the Tokyo 2020 logo, or the five-ring Olympic logo anywhere. Mitsubishi Jisho is not an official sponsor, and is forbidden from doing so. But it’s clear to everyone why Mitsubishi Jisho is sponsoring the Sports Fes Marounouchi. By holding this event during the Rio Olympics, and inviting former Japanese Olympians to talk about their experiences and display their skills, this Japanese real estate firm is basking in the golden glow of the Olympics, so hard to contain behind the curtains of IOC contracts and rules.

Sports Fest 6
Men’s individual foil silver medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, Kenta Chida.

Does this rankle the official real estate sponsor of Tokyo 2020, Mitsui Fudosan? Most likely, yes. But these are the Olympics, a premier symbol of competition. And the competition doesn’t end with the athletes. Companies in Japan will be battling for our mindshare in the coming years. And if necessity is the mother of invention, then I look forward to the creative ways non-sponsors guerilla market themselves, as we embark on the road to Tokyo 2020

Watch the video below for an up-close display of foil fighting. En garde!