Microsoft wants to show Teams isn't just a business app in ad for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

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Microsoft Teams unveiled a new ad Tuesday that imagines what it might have been like to travel for the delayed Tokyo Olympics. The ad shows people who had canceled plans to go to Tokyo this summer because of the pandemic receiving a Teams virtual tour from Tokyo residents.

Microsoft is trying to attract a different audience to Teams, its video and chat software, which competes with Slack, Zoom and other services, even as people begin to return to work in the United States. Teams saw a major increase in usage while people worked from home during the pandemic. The spot aims to show that everyone, not just businesses, can use the product to connect.

The ad, part of a campaign called "Ticket to Tokyo," will premiere during Friday's opening ceremony broadcast and run in the U.S. The company worked with its agency, Interpublic's McCann, on the campaign.

Microsoft isn't an official Olympics sponsor but has a history of advertising around the Games. The company is also working with NBC, which is airing the event, on Teams integrations to connect Olympic athletes with friends and family during the Games.

The ad comes after Tokyo Olympics sponsor Toyota announced it will not run Games-related TV commercials in Japan amid faltering public support in its home country for the delayed 2020 competition. Toyota still plans to run ads in the U.S.

Tokyo is under a state of emergency as Covid cases rise, and concern there has grown about additional cases — and especially as numerous athletes and officials have been testing positive upon arrival to Japan. 

The Teams spot tries to give a glimpse into what travelers could have seen had they been able to visit. Olympics organizers banned all spectators from the Games earlier this month. 

"The thing a lot of people love about the Olympic period is not just the sports, but the cultural exchange, how cultures and different people get together, and you learn about the country and the host country in particular," said Kathleen Hall, Microsoft's corporate VP of brand, advertising and research.

The Olympics has been a tricky proposition for some marketers given public sentiment in some parts of the world and the fact that it will be held without spectators. Sports ratings have also faltered during the pandemic, with some expecting this year's Summer Games will fall in step

Hall said the Olympics still provides a rare communal moment for viewers. 

"For marketers, it's one of the last great opportunities to kind of have pretty significant, instantaneous, visible impact in a real quality environment," she said. 

Though Teams has been a staple for many workplaces during the pandemic, Hall said it will still remain popular as people return to the office.

"I think normalcy doesn't … look like the way it was. I think normalcy is probably in the hybrid zone where you're going to have employees in virtually every meeting that some are there and some aren't," she said. "So I think the need and the use of Teams … will continue." 

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.

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