The Briefing

Tokyo 2020 — what a difference a year makes!

Why the 2021 Olympics were marketed as Tokyo 2020.

August 12, 2021
Reading time 2 min.

🌈 A quick taster for you:

  • Tokyo 2020 kept its branding. 
  • Olympic medals had the incorrect year.
  • Tokyo 2020 merchandise was worth over $100 million.

🧐 Why do I care?

We probably all enjoyed watching the closing ceremony of the 2021 Olympic Games last Sunday — and now we’re set to wait another 4 years until we can once again sit and marvel at the incredible performances of the world's top athletes. But wait a minute... it's only a 3-year wait! Because, just as the European Championship was marketed as EM2020, these Olympics were called ‘Tokyo 2020’.

🔍 What exactly is happening here?

  • Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games
    Back in September 2013, the International Olympic Committee decided that the 2020 Summer Games would be held in Tokyo. This was long before anyone could have guessed that a global pandemic would put a spanner in the works.
  • Postponed from 2020 to 2021
    The Games, originally scheduled for 24th July to 9th August 2020, were postponed at short notice to 2021 due to the Corona pandemic. Not-so-fun fact: The last time the Olympics didn’t take place as planned was in 1944 during WWII. 
  • Branding 2020
    Brands and sponsors weren’t able to react and adapt to the postponement of Tokyo 2020 at such short notice. Several companies had acquired licenses to use the ‘Tokyo 2020’ branding, and products featuring that branding had already been produced — not only t-shirts, flags, and souvenirs, but also the Olympic torches and medals. To put this into perspective, the promotional items for the Games were expected to generate several hundred million dollars. Common sense tells you that it wouldn’t have made sense to give up this branding!

🤓 What does this mean for me?

  • If you’re the owner of a Tokyo 2020 item, then in a few years time you’ll have a good anecdote about why these Olympics took place in 2021 but were still marketed under the Tokyo 2020 brand. Also, you’ll be less surprised that the next games are already scheduled for 2024. 

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