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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Coca Cola booth at Roppongi Hills


It was August 6 and I had just watched the opening ceremonies of the Rio Olympics, which was being broadcast live in Japan that lazy Saturday morning. Quite coincidentally, my wife and I reserved a Brazilian barbecue place in Roppongi for dinner that evening.

Roppongi is a hive of activity, a center of commerce, entertainment and shopping that bustles 7 days a week. In our stroll through Roppongi that day, I came upon two examples of how official Olympic sponsors have begun marketing the Olympics, not only as a lead in to the Rio Olympics, but also as a proud reminder that Tokyo will be the host of the XXXIII Olympiad in 2020.

Coca Cola is one of 12 worldwide Olympic sponsors, part of the so-called TOP program – TOP standing for “The Olympic Partner”. Like other TOP sponsors, Coca Cola has exclusive rights in the food and beverages industry to use the word Olympics and the five-ring symbol of the Games in its global marketing and advertisements, among other exclusive rights.

And in the popular Roppongi Hills square was a Coca Cola booth, with kids and adults lining up to get in. Inside the booth was a large screen displaying a swimming competition computer game. A pair of contestants would line up in front of the screen, get a motion-sensing band attached to their wrist, and then furiously roll their arms as their watched their avatar on the screen race to the finish. At the end, they were awarded a medal with a bottle of Coca Cola attached.

After dinner, we walked to my old work haunt – Midtown Tower. This popular office complex was built by Mitsui Fudosan, a major real estate developer in Japan. Mitsui Fudosan is not a TOP partner, but is instead a Tokyo 2020 Gold Partner. In the Olympic hierarchy of sponsors, the IOC allows the local national Olympic committee to select local sponsors that have exclusive rights in Japan to market and advertise using the word “Olympics” and related logos.

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Mitsui Fudosan used the open area in front of Midtown Tower artfully. Dotted throughout the square were sculptures of figures in athletic pose, gleaming white and geometrically fashioned. A female basketball player and a wheelchair tennis player greet us at the entrance. A sprinter climbs the glass cover of the escalator leading down to the underground shopping areas. Synchronized swimmers rise from a shallow pool of water, a paralympic runner strides, and a pair of judoka negotiate a fall.

Mitsui Fudosan wants you to “Be the Change”. In a missive at the display area, the JOC Olympic sponsor states that like athletes, whose daily efforts and countless beads of sweat and tears, have shaped them into Olympians with unique and wonderful stories, Tokyo is also being shaped on a daily basis, building by building, each with their own stories. The last line of the missive states, “Next, it’s Tokyo’s turn. The Olympics will be on our stage. What fantastic stories will be told?”

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