Rising Sun

Getting Set for Japan’s Moment in the Sun

Every few years it seems a country becomes the focus for the global sporting world as it hosts a string of highly-coveted global mega-events.

The early seventies saw West Germany host the Munich Olympics in 1972 closely followed by the 1974 FIFA World Cup, events designed to showcase a new Germany emerging from the long shadows of World War II. The mid-90s embraced a celebration of sport stateside as American fans embraced ‘soccer’ at the pioneering 1994 World Cup and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta gave the Games the commercial boost it had been lacking since Los Angeles more than a decade earlier. Most recently, the UK enjoyed a purple patch hosting not only the London 2012 Olympics but the 2015 Rugby World Cup and IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2017.

Rarely, however, does a country get two bites at the cherry but Japan is about to do exactly that.

The turn of the century was bookmarked by the 1998 Winter Olympic games in Nagano followed, in 2002, the first FIFA World Cup to be held in Asia and one that sought to capitalise on the incredible popularity of football in Japan and near neighbour South Korea.

Now, in 2019 Japan prepares to host the first Rugby World Cup to be held outside the traditional Six Nations or Rugby Championship nations while a year later, the Summer Olympics Games returns to Tokyo for the first time in 56 years.

The board members of World Rugby will be hoping that the response of Japanese fans will be somewhere approaching the fever pitch of 2002, as it seeks to build on the success of Rugby Sevens inclusion in the 2016 Rio Olympics by taking the 15-man format to a new, still-developing market.

The challenge to sponsors and marketers as Japan’s time in the spotlight nears is to understand how theĀ  audiences in the age of catch-up TV will engage with big events taking place outside of prime time as well as forecasting the volume and likely routines of travelling fans to the events themselves.

And it isn’t as easy as dusting off the campaign reports from World Cup 2002. Too much water has passed under the bridge for those learnings to carry any weight, not least because the creation of social platforms whose scaled dwarfs the traditional media titles that prevailed nearly two decades ago.

What is certain is that for sponsors of both the Rugby World Cup and its participating nations and the Olympics at both global and domestic levels, the challenge will be to overcome the barriers of time, distance and culture to ensure their brands manage to grab their moment in the land of the rising sun.


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