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[Tokyo] Another Olympics has ended, and yet again a gold medal has eluded Japan's largest brewer.

By now, no one should be surprised.

Kirin Brewery Co. every two years mounts an ad blitz via Dentsu starring Japan's most promising Olympic hopefuls and carrying the tagline, "Go for it, Japan."

Each time, the Kirin athletes fail to grab the gold. Or the silver. Or even the bronze.


Kirin has been a sponsor of Japan's Olympic Committee since 1990. It was the official beer at the Winter Games that just ended in Nagano, Japan, where a TV, print and out-of-home campaign featured Japanese speed skater Manabu Hori and skier Kenji Ogiwara.

But while Japan racked up a record number of medals at Nagano, the Kirin jinx, in place since 1992, remained intact; none of the medal-winners from Japan endorsed the brew.

"We are trying to get the best athletes at that time for our `Go for it, Japan' ad campaign," said a Kirin spokesman. "It is too bad about the results."

At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Kirin built a campaign around judo star Judoka Royoko Tamura, considered a sure thing for a gold medal. She was stunned in the finals by a little-known North Korean rival.

Kirin and Dentsu work closely with Japan's Olympic Committee to choose the most promising athletes, adding to the mystery of why Kirin endorsers never find themselves on the medal stand.


The athletes can't even be consoled by big bucks from their endorsement deals. Most of the money goes to the Olympic Federation and to local sports associations to train athletes.

Winning the gold, though, clearly isn't everything.The string of losses hasn't harmed the Japanese beer marketer's sale: Kirin has a category-leading 41.5% share of Japan's beer market.

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