Over the years, Pokémon has done an array of collabs, including New Era, Oreo, Levi’s, and Casio. Some have been more interesting than others. But finally, Pocket Monsters is teaming up with sumo wrestling. It’s about time!
Think about it. This makes perfect sense. In sumo, you have two wrestlers facing off to see which one is more powerful. Kind of like Pokémon, no?
“Pokémon is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but compared to sumo, which has a long history and tradition, it’s still the beginning,” said Tsunekazu Ishihara, president of The Pokémon Company, in an official statement. Ishihara added his respect for the sport and his desire to show the appeal of it and Pokémon.
The Nihon Sumo Kyokai, the sport’s official organization, is saying that this collab is a “historic first.” The Pokémon Company is sponsoring kensho banners at upcoming official sumo tournaments. As The Japan Times explains, these colorful kensho banners are carried around the ring prior to high-ranked bouts. (Full disclosure: I am a columnist at The Japan Times.) For those fights, there can be up to fifty different kensho banners and, generally speaking, sponsors must shell out for one each day of the tournament.
“The banners represent prize money staked on that bout by corporate sponsors,” writes The Japan Times. “Each one costs ¥62,000 ($545) with ¥56,700 ($499) going to the winner of the match and ¥5,300 ($47) deducted for costs and fees.”
The Pokémon banners will be displayed at the November sumo tournament in Fukuoka as well as at the January one in Tokyo. Each banner will be different, featuring things like box art for games like Pokémon Red and Green or portrayals of Pocket Monsters, including Pikachu and Makuhita. In total, over 200 banners will be appearing at the tournaments.
The Pokémon Company will also be sponsoring kesho-mawashi, which are the ceremonial, embroidered apron-like garb worn by wrestlers when they enter the ring. Sponsors can put their corporate logos on them for publicity. For example, at one sumo tournament I attended, the Bulgaria-born sumo wrestler Kotooshu wore a kesho-mawashi embroidered with the Japanese yogurt brand Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt. (This is still the best corporate sponsorship I’ve never seen in Japan.)
At the January tournament, the sumo referee will also don a special Pokémon themed outfit. Doubt the costume will be a full-on Pikachu suit because it would be too hard to judge the fight, but one can always wish and dream.