TOKYO — With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics having been postponed for a year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Uniqlo is stepping up its partnership with the Swedish Olympic and Paralympic Committees. The Japanese apparel brand revealed at a livestreamed press conference Wednesday that it has added a team of 13 Swedish athletes to its growing list of global brand ambassadors.
“Until now Uniqlo has had several individual athletes as global brand ambassadors, including wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kunieda, tennis player Kei Nishikori, golf player Adam Scott, wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid and, more recently, tennis player Roger Federer and snowboarder Ayumu Hirano. These six individuals are the current Uniqlo brand ambassadors. But on this occasion 13 Swedish Olympians, Paralympians and legendary athletes have come together as Uniqlo Team Sweden, which is Uniqlo’s very first brand ambassador team,” said Koji Yanai, a group senior executive officer of Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company. Yanai is the son of Tadashi Yanai, Fast Retailing’s chairman, president and chief executive officer.
The younger Yanai joined Fast Retailing in 2012 and has served as director of the board since November 2018. He became a group senior executive officer in June of this year, and is also the executive in charge of the company’s Olympic and Paralympic project for 2020 and 2022.
Yanai said 11 of the athletes chosen as a part of the team are currently active and are expected to medal at the Tokyo Olympics, which as been postponed until 2021. Two others are lifelong athletes who have reached legendary status in Sweden. Sports represented by the group include mountain biking, wrestling, sailing, table tennis, boxing, canoeing, wheelchair table tennis, swimming, long jump and soccer.
Roughly a year and a half ago, Uniqlo said it had signed on as the main partner and official apparel partner of the Swedish Olympic and Paralympic teams. Uniqlo Team Sweden will help the company to conceptualize and develop a full line of official LifeWear clothing that will take the athletes through 24 hour days. It will be comprised of not only athleticwear, but also casual clothing to be worn during off time.
While Yanai said the official Olympic and Paralympic clothing will be unveiled “soon,” Uniqlo has started the project with a T-shirt designed to enable fans to support the Swedish team. The white T-shirt is printed with elements that combine the Swedish flag, the letters SWE, and the word “tillsammans,” which translates to “together.” The Ts will go on sale at Uniqlo stores in Sweden on Thursday, and 13 will be given away to customers in Japan via a Twitter campaign.
In addition to product development, the team will work with Uniqlo on what it calls the Dream Project, which is designed to inspire youth through sports. By setting up mobile sports courts in various places across the country throughout the coming year, some 20,000 Swedish children will have the opportunity to “find their sport,” according to Peter Reinebo, ceo of the Swedish Olympic Committee. The project was dubbed a “social contribution program” by Yanai.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, society and the world have completely changed, and because of this our company’s way of thinking and working is also changing continually. Until now, as an apparel brand that supports people’s daily lives, we have been providing LifeWear as a way to contribute. Going forward, in addition to our core business we need to strengthen and contribute more to social contribution activities,” Yanai said.