Some news stories of note, on the backlash to Olympic sponsors.
Associated Press: IOC Satisfied Olympic Charter Respected for Sochi
“If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The safety of millions of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Russians and international travelers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completed neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world.”
Huffington Post 08/09/2013: ”How Olympic Sponsors and the IOC Could Have Stopped Russia’s Anti-Gay Law — And Didn’t”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that before Sochi was chosen for the 2014 games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other stakeholders, including American multinational sponsors of the Winter Olympics, as well as NBC Universal, which has the broadcast contract, carefully tracked the path of the legislation, which is a clear violation of the Olympic Charter.
Huffington Post 01/28/2014: ”Olympic Sponsors Were Warned About Sochi; Now McDonald’s and Coca-Cola Are Having a PR Nightmare”
[A] couple of days after Coke saw its iconic 1971 commercial featuring singers wanting “to buy the world a Coke” re-edited by Queer Nation NY, going viral, with images added showing Russian security officials and police brutally cracking down on LGBT protestors.
McDonald’s, meanwhile, has surrendered a hashtag meant to cheer on American athletes, #CheerstoSochi, which was taken over by LGBT activists. It’s been used by people around the world — translated into Japanese, German, French and Russian — to highlight Russia’s repression and the McDonald’s Corporation’s sponsorship of the Sochi games. Ronald McDonald has been turned into an icon of hate, while Procter & Gamble is being accused of supporting a different kind of cleansing than its soaps and detergents advertise. And there is much, much more to come.
Reuters: Oct 25, 2013, “Russian rights rows put pressure on Sochi sponsors”
“Sochi potentially is the danger Games,” said Peter Walshe, a global account director ofmarketing company Millward Brown. “With these major world events, companies are looking for a halo effect for the brand. Sochi is big and high profile but such events are becoming platforms for social and political protest.”
Attempts to divorce the Olympics from their political context have always proved futile but social media now makes it much simpler for protest groups to campaign remotely from aGames.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has acknowledged that American sponsors in particular are concerned about the impact of the legislation on the Games to be held in southern Russia from February 7-23.
Associated Press: Nov. 17, 2013, ”Foes of Russia’s anti-gay law ponder new tactics”
The Worldwide Olympic Partners — among them Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa — have thus far sidestepped requests to explicitly condemn the law, rebuffing efforts that included behind-the-scenes meetings and correspondence with Human Rights Watch.
Now, that organization and some of its allies have decided to go public with their dissatisfaction.
“It’s taken months for the sponsors to formulate lawyerly responses that say nothing,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “We’re going to work hard between now and Sochi to not let them off the hook.”
Huffington Post, Jan 23, 2013. “McDonald’s #CheersToSochi Campaign Meets With LGBT Backlash”
By the end of Wednesday, a Twitter search of the McDonald’s hashtag#CheersToSochi revealed that it was no hyperbole when the Bilerico Project’s John Becker declared it officially “hijacked.” Legions of LGBT protesters outnumbered everyone else in the feed.
New York Times: JAN. 27, 2014 ”Activists Try to Hijack Promotions by Sponsors of Sochi Olympics”
But with the Sochi Games increasingly tied to the antigay laws in Russia, that sure bet has become a bit shakier. Over the past week, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and other big advertisers are having to fend off gay rights activists who have hijacked their Olympic promotions on social media. The tug of war involving McDonald’s began Jan. 21 when the company introduced on its Twitter feeda hashtag, #CheersToSochi, in a post that read: “We’re kicking off a way to send your well wishes to any Olympian today. Are you ready to send your #CheersToSochi?”
Soon after, activists who have been protesting a federal law in Russia against “homosexual propaganda,” which is widely considered antigay, filled Twitter with posts that used the hashtag for their own purposes. Such appropriations are known as “hashtag hijacking.”
Associated Press: February 5, 2013, ‘More Olympic-Linked Furor Over Russia Anti-Gay Law”
Protesters in cities around the world targeted major Olympic sponsors Wednesday, just ahead of the Winter Games in Sochi, urging them to speak out against Russia’s law restricting gay-rights activities. Two more sponsors of the U.S. Olympic team condemned the law, but leading global sponsors did not join them.
“”No, no to Russia’s anti-gay law,” chanted several dozen protesters in Paris who gathered in front of a McDonald’s restaurant at the Place de la Republique. The fast-food chain is one of the International Olympic Committee’s 10 top sponsors for the Sochi Games, which open Friday.