Since 1990, Kirin Brewery Co. has been a sponsor of the Japan Olympic Committee and it was the official beer for this win ter's Nagano Games. Since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, it has run a series of ads featur ing Japan's best medal hopefuls with the tagline: "Go for it Japan." The campaign has been great for beer sales, but it has been a disaster for athletes.
Most of the athletes selected by Kirin for the ad campaign have bombed during the Olympics. This year Kirin selected speed skater Manabu Hori and Nordic com bined (ski jumping and cross country skiing) athlete Kenji Ogiwara. The two, who have won World Cup events in their respective sports, failed to capture any medals in Nagano.
In 1996 in Atlanta, Kirin selected female judo athlete Ryoko Tamura for its campaign. Tamura was as close to a sure thing for gold as there can be. She had been undefeated for over two years before the games. However, she was stunned in the finals when an unknown North Korean judo athlete beat her for the gold.
"It is too bad about the results," a Kirin official says dismissing the jinx. "We are trying to get the best athletes at that time for our `Go for it Japan' ad cam paign."
Unfortunately for Kirin, Japan racked a record number of medals at Nagano, and all of them were won by people not featured in Kirin ads.
At the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, Kirin featured four of Japan's most promising athletes in their ads, and they all failed.
Copyright February 1998, Crain Communications Inc.