Japan World Cup Soccer Berth Gives Abenomics Consumer Boost

Japanese companies from NTT DoCoMo Inc. to Kirin Holdings Co. are benefiting as the national soccer team’s 2014 World Cup berth draws attention to their promotions featuring the team and its star players.

From July 9, the country’s largest beverage maker and lead sponsor of the national team will plaster photos of Samurai Blue, as the national team is known, on four of its beer brands. DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest mobile phone carrier, runs TV commercials featuring Keisuke Honda, the midfielder who scored the goal in a June 4 match against Australia that made Japan the first team to qualify for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

Samurai Blue sponsors, also including Sony Corp., Japan Airlines Co., FamilyMart Co., Adidas AG, Audi AG and Mizuho Financial Group Inc., are tapping into the team’s success to stoke consumer sentiment just as efforts by Shinzo Abe’s government to end more than 15 years of falling prices have prompted a rally in share prices and a surge in growth.

“With the team now qualified, we can only see a positive side to this,” Kan Yamamoto, a Kirin spokesman, said by phone. “Our half-time commercial during the game was very well-taken. Becoming the talk of the town is a very positive result.”

Dentsu Inc., which has exclusive Asian broadcast rights for the 2014 World Cup in partnership with Switzerland-based Infront Sports & Media, jumped 2.5 percent in Tokyo trading the day after the qualifying match against Australia, played near Tokyo. Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., the food and drink maker that is Kirin’s bigger Japanese beer rival, laced the broadcast of the game with commercials featuring Honda using its Mintia brand mints.

Timely Goal

Another DoCoMo commercial featuring the attacking midfielder “just happened to be on the same day” Japan clinched the World Cup berth, said Shintaro Oka, a promotion division representative at the Tokyo-based mobile carrier. “It does seem like a plus for us.”

Kirin surged 5.6 percent as of the close in Tokyo trading bringing its gain this year to 61 percent, while DoCoMo has jumped 21 percent, Asahi has climbed 35 percent and Dentsu has rallied 53 percent.

Gross domestic product last quarter rose an annualized 4.1 percent, the biggest gain in a year, government data released today show. Private consumption, which makes up 60 percent of the economy, contributed 3.6 percentage points to the increase, as a 27 percent surge in the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average since Dec. 31 has boosted consumer sentiment.

Kirin said its sponsorship of the team is aimed at supporting soccer’s development in the country. Still, the association benefits the beermaker more when Samurai Blue win, said Tokushi Yamasaki, an analyst at Daiwa Securities Co.

More Campaigns

“The more successful the team is, the more campaigns Kirin can run,” Yamasaki said by phone. “They are dependent on the team’s success in that more campaigns usually lead to greater sales.” He rates Kirin “buy.”

For player sponsors including Asahi, a goal in a big game can boost the effectiveness of promotions, said Takuo Soga, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based company. “It’s an advantage, while our goal is to support the players.”

The boost from the Samurai Blue’s win for consumer-products companies may be too small to have a measurable effect on the broader economic trend, said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Research Institute in Tokyo.

“The benefits for companies that sponsor the team are there, but not enough to boost the economy,” Nagahama said by phone.

The Japanese team, ranked 32nd as of this month by cup organizer FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, has never advanced past the round of eight in the global tournament. The most recent campaign in the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa ended in the round of 16 with a loss to Paraguay.

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