Toyota, the Japanese carmaker, could be poised to sign up as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s TOP worldwide sponsorship programme, it has been reported. 

The report, pubished by Kyodo News Agency, claimed that IOC President Thomas Bach and Akio Toyoda, his Toyota counterpart, would attend a signing ceremony in Tokyo on March 13.

Toyota would be the third Japanese company to join the programme after Panasonic and Bridgestone, the tyremaker.

The information was not, however, confirmed by the IOC, which told insidethegames today it was “in ongoing discussions with a number of companies regarding the Worldwide TOP Programme, however we do not comment on speculation”.

The move would be an interesting one in a number of respects.

Most obviously, it would continue the trend towards increased representation by Japanese companies among the sports body’s leading sponsors since Tokyo won the right to stage the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and a Japanese national, Tsunekazu Takeda, was appointed chair of the IOC’s Marketing Commission last year.

If confirmed, the Toyota deal would come nine months after the IOC signed a similar deal with Bridgestone, another Japanese company ©Bridgestone

If confirmed, the Toyota deal would come nine months after the IOC signed a similar deal with Bridgestone, another Japanese company ©Bridgestone

It would also mark a change for the car category, which has traditionally been a national deal with the relevant Organising Committee.

Rio 2016, for example, counts another Japanese carmaker Nissan among its roster of Official Sponsors.

This, of course, indicates very strongly that any Toyota sponsorship would not begin until after Rio 2016.

Kyodo News Agency, moreover, includes a possible value – “in the vicinity of ¥100 billion (£543 million/$835 million/€747 million)” – which, if remotely accurate, implies a long-term arrangement.

Interviewed by insidethegames five months ago, Timo Lumme, the IOC’s managing director television and marketing services, said the body was “talking about” $200 million (£124 million/€157 million) per sponsor for the next TOP programme but one, running from 2021 until 2024.

This would suggest a target for TOP of more than $2 billion (£1.2 billion/€1.8 billion) in cash and value-in-kind goods and services by 2024 after breaking through the $1 billion (£600,000/€900,000) barrier in the current cycle culminating with Rio 2016.

An $800 million (£496 million/€628 million) – plus valuation, if confirmed, suggests therefore that any arrangement might also take in the 2024 Games, the race for which is just getting under way.

This would presumably be of considerable interest to 2024 bidders, such as Boston and Rome, since it might indicate that the “carmaker” category may not be available to the winner when attempting to recruit local sponsors.