Michael Phelps is one of the athletes on Team Panasonic  ©Getty Images

Finding athletes who embody both meanings of the word "champion" was high on Panasonic North America's list of priorities when choosing ambassadors for is Tokyo 2020 campaign.

Tak Kosugi, head of Olympic marketing in North America for the corporation, revealed that as well as being consistent with the first of Panasonic's "Seven Principles", "Contribution to Society", selecting athletes who seek out common-good causes was also consistent with a drive to raise brand awareness among millennials and Gen Z.

Those demographics are interested in social good, said Kosugi, but awareness of Panasonic is lower in these groups now that 95 per cent of its business in the United States in conducted business-to-business.

That is how Team Panasonic, boasting Michael Phelps - the most decorated Olympian in history, with 23 gold medals - fellow swimmer and Katie Ledecky - already a triple medallist Tokyo 2020 - Pan American Games karate champion Sakura Kokumai and four-time Paralympic long jump silver medallist Lex Gillette, came to be.

Phelps champions awareness of mental health and water safety, Ledecky science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and women in tech, Gillette is a motivational speaker and Kokumai a champion for the Japanese-American community. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Games by 12 months and impacted the build-up for athletes, organisers, fans and sponsors alike, Team Panasonic activities could still go ahead.

Kokumai led 30-minute training sessions on Instagram when coronavirus restrictions confined much of the world's population to their homes, with the series receiving support from Panasonic.

Sakura Kokumai is a seven-time US kata champion and an ambassador for the Japanese-American community  ©Getty Images
Sakura Kokumai is a seven-time US kata champion and an ambassador for the Japanese-American community ©Getty Images

Ledecky took part in Online STEM workshops and fairs for groups from Toronto and Newark, as well as working with a group a schoolchildren in Japan.

Those children studied the "Katie's Dive Into STEM Education" course before taking part in a remote question-and-answer session with Ledecky, then writing up articles about the experience.

"I hope Katie, after her competition, will meet these kids in Tokyo," Kosugi told insidethegames.

"Maybe online, perhaps, unfortunately.

"Under the COVID-19 protocol."

Nonetheless, that is the "dream".

A YouTube broadcast, Team Panasonic: Moving Forward In Difficult Times, also unearthed a story from Ledecky which the company claims encapsulates the messaging of the campaign, which has also focussed on inspiring the next generation.

"I would say my family and my caches and my team mates," Ledecky said when asked who inspired her - but Phelps also belongs on the list.

"We are both from Maryland and when I was six years old I started swimming in the summer and that same summer there was a swim meet at he University of Maryland, it was a national-level meet," Ledecky recalled.

"My mom took my brother and me to this meet to watch and we knew that Michael Phelps was swimming, he had just broken some world records, was leading into the Athens Games looking like the top dog and we were really excited to watch him race and after the final session of the day that we went to watch we went down and went to get some athletes' autographs and we got a couple athletes' autographs. 

"Then we were walking to the car and Michael's walking to the car and he had his headphones in and - I don't know if my mom kinda waved him down or tracked him down.

"Michael, you know my mom. 

"She's very, very talkative, probably was the one that flagged you down.

"She somehow got your attention and you took your headphones out, give us the quick autograph, and that very simple act meant so much to me and I still have that cap."

Ledecky, who went on become a team mate of Phelps' at London 2012 and Rio 2016, cites the experience as motivation to be a positive role model and inspire the youth of today.

"I hope that I'm able to give back and inspire that next generation of young swimmers, young athletes, young students," she said.

Panasonic's first Olympic involvement was at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, where it supplied a sound system and video display for the main stadium.

It joined the flagship The Olympic Partner (TOP) worldwide sponsorship scheme at the outset in 1987, and the electronics corporation has been a TOP sponsor ever since.

Katie Ledecky won the women's 1500m freestyle gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images
Katie Ledecky won the women's 1500m freestyle gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images

Panasonic's headquarters are in Osaka in Japan, and it is also a Gold Partner for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Next on the Olympic horizon is Beijing 2022.

Some Olympic sponsors are being lobbied to cut ties to those Games or pressure the International Olympic Committee into moving them.

Just this week, employees from five US-based TOP sponsors where called before a Congressional Executive Committee on China hearing and grilled on the companies' attitudes towards China and human rights.

In Xinjiang, China has been accused of using forced Uyghur labour, operating a mass surveillance programme, detaining thousands in internment camps, carrying out forced sterilisations and intentionally destroying Uyghur heritage.

A US State Department report published in January said this amounted to genocide, but Beijing claims the camps are training centres designed to stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism, denying the charges laid against it.

"Panasonic is not in the position to talk about this political matter because we the sponsor of the Olympic Movement" - not an individual Games - Kosugi said when asked about the issue.

The Panasonic campaign leading up to Beijing 2022 can be expected to be similar to the one for Tokyo 2020, per Kosugi.

That campaign will be unique in a number of ways, including the fact that Beijing 2022 is due to being fewer than six months after Tokyo 2020 ends.