The Olympic flame will remain extinguished until next summer, with the tournament now officially having been dialed back by 365 days. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) penned in the Tokyo Olympic Games from 23 July 2021 to 8 August. Additionally, The Paralympic Games will run between 24 August and 5 September 2021.

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Despite running one year behind schedule, there is no rebrand planned. Olympic 2021 will remain Olympic 2020. With fresh dates cemented, organizers, athletes, and fans have now been relieved of the uncertainty inspired by the first postponement in the 124-year modern history of the modern Olympic Games.

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Olympic Hospitality |Olympic 2020 Tickets | Olympic Tickets | Olympic Packages| Tokyo Olympic Tickets

US Olympics TV rights holder, NBCUniversal, announced proudly just last month how it had already sold 90% of its commercials for the tournament. The total sum amounted to $1.25bn; a new record, surpassing the total for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janiero and giving an indication of how much advertisers had planned to stump up. Some brands – including Nike, Coke, and Adidas – have already launched products and activations pinned to this year’s event.

Many have spent the best part of a year laying the pipework for big-budget creative executions, as well as competitions, online promotions, and on-the-ground campaigns. The Olympic is a platform for glitzy, award-winning work that delivers real results for brands (see: Under Armour’s ‘Rule Yourself’; P&G’s ‘Thank You Mom’; and Nike’s ‘Unlimited Youth’). During a coronavirus crunch, where marketing budgets are stretched, Tokyo Olympic could see sponsors take a different approach to Olympic advertising.

Joel Seymour-Hyde is managing director UK at sports and entertainment agency Octagon, which counts Mastercard, Unilever, Budweiser and Expedia among its clients. He says, in a world where brands’ revenues and share prices are tanking it would be “naïve” to think it will be business as usual for Olympic sponsors in 2021. The ratio of activation spends, including marketing, campaigns, media, employee engagement, B2B and hospitality, to rights fees are higher for Tokyo Olympic sponsors v most other properties.

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Olympic Hospitality |Olympic 2020 Tickets | Olympic Tickets | Olympic Packages| Tokyo Olympic Tickets

The obvious implications of this for 2021, Seymour-Hyde argues, would be some reduction in associated media spend, and potential reductions in the scale of hospitality initiatives. It ultimately depends on how long and deep the disruption goes. At the time of writing, the majority of the IOC’s top-tier global brand partners (many of which have inked long-term deals) had issued statements expressing their continued support of the Games.

As a proud sponsor of the Olympic Movement for more than 30 years, we will work with the IOC, the TOCOG, the government of Japan and our partners in the coming months to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo Olympic as memorable in 2021 as they would have been this year,” it said in a statement. How much of their lost activation costs they can recover will depend on insurance, which could be a sticking point for smaller, struggling brands on a lower sponsorship tier.

Crow believes there’s a silver lining to the postponement though, with many brands seeing the 2021 Games as an opportunity to engage with customers following the most tumultuous period in modern history. Seymour-Hyde agrees, saying that when the Games do return to screens the positive reaction from athletes, consumers, sponsors, and broadcaster should be huge. This applies to all sport, and already there is a consensus that the return of live sport will be a huge cultural moment.

Olympic Hospitality |Olympic 2020 Tickets | Olympic Tickets | Olympic Packages| Tokyo Olympic Tickets
Olympic Hospitality |Olympic 2020 Tickets | Olympic Tickets | Olympic Packages| Tokyo Olympic Tickets

There is nothing a brand or sponsor loves more than tapping it to the cultural zeitgeist, so it’s a fantastic creative challenge and opportunity. As for the legalities, over the next few months, the ins and outs of what this means for existing sponsorship contracts are likely to be negotiated on an ad hoc basis. Commercial media lawyer Nick Breen told The Drum last month that the implications of cancellation or postponement would be “significant” for brands; especially those that have already stumped up the cash.

One certain thing is that by the time 2021 rolls around, the world will be more than ready for Tokyo Olympic and everything it represents. If brands are smart, they will go for gold in the next 12 months, readying strategies that allow them to bounce back in a post-coronavirus world.

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