This year’s Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo succeeded despite COVID-19 worries persisting to the last minute. Essential to the games’ accomplishment was the hard work and dedication of the 1.9 million Japanese citizens and residents who held jobs related to the nation’s first summer games since 1964.
Among the organizers was Cal State Fullerton marketing grad Shogo Nishiyori ’07, who has developed a sports marketing and athlete management career, first in the U.S., and then in his native Japan since 2010.
Originally, Nishiyori joined the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee as a senior manager in the Marketing Bureau’s Sales Planning Division (Business Development).
“We were responsible for the sales of partner sponsorships and games-related events and were fortunate to have an abundance of domestic and foreign entities eager to be a part of the games,” recalls Nishiyori. “I recall being in disbelief when we realized we had 75 partners, with a year to go (in 2019). This figure was exponentially larger than any of the previous games had accomplished, and it was gratifying knowing we made our mark on history.”
The Tokyo 2020 organizing committee raised over $3 billion from national partnerships, eclipsing the $1 billion record set by the London 2012 Games.
Later in 2019, Nishiyori transferred to the team overseeing The Worldwide Olympic Partnerships – the highest partnership tier in Olympic marketing.
“I was promoted as a director, and my main role was to manage the marketing elements of multiple cross-functional projects, which typically required extensive levels of knowledge and finesse surrounding contractual and non-contractual Olympic marketing rights and the activation elements that surround it,” says Nishiyori. “Over the course of two years, I was fortunate to be a key member of the Tokyo 2020 Podium Project – an unprecedented initiative using recycled material to create the Tokyo 2020 podium; as well as the Opening Ceremonies Placard Bearer Project.”
Seeing Tokyo 2020 Through the Pandemic
When the International Olympic Committee announced the one-year postponement of Tokyo 2020 on March 24, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time in modern Olympic history that the games were put on hold but not cancelled. It also raised questions of whether Japan’s historical record of Olympic misfortune would continue.
In 1940, Tokyo was set to host the games, then a first for an Asian nation, but forfeited the games due to World War II. Tokyo 2020 had been in doubt even when the games were first awarded in 2013, due to the aftermath of the Fukishima nuclear accident.
“COVID-19 and the postponement of the games impacted our work tremendously. It really wasn’t until after the no-spectators policy was decided that things took a turn. There was a lot of chaos due to uncertainty as we faced dealing with risk assessment on an unprecedented scale for the world’s biggest sporting event. It definitely felt like Tokyo 2020 was dealt some bad cards,” says Nishiyori.
“I found myself on my toes 24/7 to support partners on COVID countermeasures and restricted access to spectate any venues or competitions. It was honestly a tough pill to swallow because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to host the games in my hometown, and Tokyo was so well prepared.”
While pandemic protocols and events without spectators put a damper on the games, Nishiyori is proud that he and his colleagues contributed to the games’ ultimate success.
“Tokyo 2020 was resilient because hard work is a traditional virtue Japanese society still holds as being glorious. The majority of staff worked around the clock to align stakeholders and delivery obligations to the best of our capabilities. It was definitely not easy to overcome the adversity, but I believe the commitment and dedication of staff was unprecedented and the hard work paid off with the Tokyo 2020 Games being held safely and securely as initially promised,” he says.
A Journey from CSUF to the Olympics
In 2004, Nishiyori was a transfer student from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, who chose Cal State Fullerton because he previously lived in Orange County and wanted to return and participate in the Southern California Japanese American community.
A career in sports marketing was born in a general education sociology class at Cal State Fullerton and a connection to a sports marketing career opportunity.
Nishiyori went on to travel the world as a sports marketer, managed Olympic Athletes (including figure skaters, snowboarders and tennis players), and completed MLB, NFL and European soccer team sponsorship deals.
“My career has intentionally always surrounded sports. It’s where my passion resides, and I’ve pursued the betterment of my sports marketing knowledge and experience each step of the way. I feel fortunate to have created a career in the sports industry, and I have enjoyed some very special moments,” he says.
“I believe CSUF provides a beneficial experience and education for international students, but I do stress that college is all that you make it out to be. Proactively involving yourself is key, whether it’s for intramurals or group assignments in class. Making connections is one of the most productive things an international student can do, especially if he or she is thinking about pursuing a career in the U.S. I encourage international students to maximize their experience by simply being more assertive. Get involved and make connections to expand your horizon. Also, don’t forget to enjoy the Southern California sun, too.”
With Tokyo 2020 now in the rear-view mirror, Nishiyori plans to return to the United States in pursuit of a senior sports marketing career.