Olympics: Japan's Bridgestone becomes major new sponsor

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (right) shakes hands with Bridgestone CEO Masaaki Tsuya during a signing ceremony making the company an official TOP worldwide Olympic partner through the 2024 Olympic Games, in Tokyo June 1
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (right) shakes hands with Bridgestone CEO Masaaki Tsuya during a signing ceremony making the company an official TOP worldwide Olympic partner through the 2024 Olympic Games, in Tokyo June 13, 2014. Bridgestone on Friday joined the ranks of global corporations sponsoring the Olympic movement, as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Summer Games. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese tyre giant Bridgestone on Friday joined the ranks of global corporations sponsoring the Olympic movement, as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Summer Games.

The firm and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) signed a 10-year agreement in Tokyo under which Bridgestone will support the Olympic Partner (TOP) sponsorship programme.

The terms of the contract were not made public but its value was earlier estimated at about 35 billion yen (S$430 million) by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

The 29-year-old TOP programme is the highest level of Olympic sponsorship and provides sponsors with exclusive worldwide marketing rights to the Olympic Games in their designated product category.

It currently has 10 other members - Coca-Cola, Atos, Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Procter and Gamble, Samsung and Visa.

Three Japanese firms, including Brother and Ricoh, were TOP partners during their country's economic bubble in the 1980's but only Panasonic has remained on the roster.

The deal followed the appointment of Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda as chairman of the IOC's marketing commission in April.

Bridgestone CEO and chairman Masayuki Tsuya said the partnership, which will run till 2024, would be an "indispensable investment for global business development of Bridgestone's brand".

He said his company wishes to make the best use of the Olympics as a "global communications platform".

IOC president Thomas Bach, who signed the contract, said: "It is very obvious that the support of our TOP partners, including now on Bridgestone, will be extremely important to the success of the (2020) Games."

"We want our partnerships always to be a win-win situation," he said, adding that the IOC is interested in long-term deals with TOP sponsors.

The TOP package will benefit not only its sponsors but also athletes and sports because the IOC is distributing "more than 90 per cent of our revenues to the world of sport," he said.

The money will be allotted to Olympic organising committees, athlete scholarship programmes, the 204 national Olympic committees and international sports federations, he said.