Better late than never, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally kicked off on July 23, 2021, with yet again another spectacular opening ceremony despite having no live spectators. The opening ceremony not only kicked the games off, but also launched the abundance of advertising campaigns from our much-loved brands, including Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Visa and Procter & Gamble.

Understandably, with the Covid-19 pandemic still extremely prevalent, brands are nervous about how the public will receive the advertising campaigns. Toyota decided as the games started, that they would not run their Olympic-related TV ads within its home country, prompting other brands to question whether this year’s Games can provide opportunity for them to create relevant and positive associations.

Neeru Paharia, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has commented “There’s a tension. You risk coming across as inauthentic and trying to sell people stuff, which is normally okay, but in the middle of a pandemic, it feels tasteless in some ways…Or tone deaf.”

However, brands have risen to the challenge. One company who has used the learning of their brand’s experience from the last year, is Airbnb who have created 200 experiences, online and in-person, which allows athletes to share their passions with guests. BBC and Channel 4 have, once again, have been promoting their coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics through inspiring creative advertising.

Many brands have decided to continue with a theme of unity, like P&Gs campaign which honours mothers. Allianz has also taken a serious approach to the unity theme and chosen to highlight athletes’ mental health struggles. Whereas some other brands have chosen to keep things more upbeat with a more comedic theme, like an ad from Michelob Ultra which stars Usain Bolt recruiting fellow runners for a beer.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to throw challenges at us, its great to see the world coming together to still celebrate our greatest athletes in whichever way we can.


Our consumer PR agency specialises in connecting everyday brands with everyday people across four core sectors; Consumer PRFood and Drink PRRetail PR and Sport, Health & Wellbeing PR