Sochi Sponsors can’t “Think Positively” and definitely aren’t “Lovin’ it”

LGBT Protest outside the Olympic Winter Games 2014

Everyone dreads that PR Nightmare. The moment that every crisis management tool you’ve ever learned flies out the window and you’re left to be eaten alive by the public. Well Sochi Olympic sponsors are definitely being eaten alive  in the controversial platform that is Russia. Sponsors were warned about the volatile environment under Putin, regarding aggressive laws against homosexual behavior and LGBT activists. With stringent laws banning “gay propaganda” and violent public arrests of gay-rights protesters, the world has taken notice of everything but the games. Definitely not what big time sponsors McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola had in mind.

Having sponsored the Olympics for decades, these companies are experiencing serious backlash from their silence regarding various human rights outcries. As written in each company’s mission statement, the UN’s Ten Guiding Principles are of utmost importance. Well…according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, implementing respect for human rights in a corporate context has three primary components:Britain Russia Soschi Protest

  1. A policy commitment to meet the responsibility to respect human rights;
  2. A due diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and be accountable for human rights abuses; and
  3. Processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts the company causes or to which it contributes.
Sochi, we have a problem.
Corporations definitely skipped over this part. After having twitter campaigns hijacked (#CheerstoSochi), Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have had to make defensive statements regarding the world’s uproar, stating they support the “spirit of the games”, not the politics. So why should they get involved? Well, other corporations have spoken out to stop LGBT injustice…awkward.

Here is a list of corporations actively supporting LGBT this Olympics:


A Time for Pride & Equality

American Apparel:

American Apparel's P6 clothing line in support of gay rights at the Sochi Olympics.
American Apparel created the P6 clothing line is in support of LGBT at Olympics






















This all brings up a very interesting realization: while many people are slamming silent corporations online and planning global boycotts, they aren’t the ones who chose the location of the Olympics. Shouldn’t the International Olympics Committee (IOC) be the one on trial? Why pick Russia in the first place? In an interesting interview with Mindy Worden of Human Rights Watch (HRW), she explains that Putin’s “gay propaganda” law has been tracked since inception (anyone remember the band Pussy Riot?). Worden states that “they [IOC] had ample time to put the pressure on Russia…If they had leaned on [Russia] before the law was signed, it would not have been signed.”

So why didn’t they? While the IOC cannot outrightly comment on the political decisions of Russia, it can definitely decide on a less volatile and oppressive location. Among the human rights infringements, other issues arose with the decision of Sochi:
  1. The safety of Olympic athletes (not that it should matter but in this case LGBT athletes).

    Enough said. If the safety of any athlete is in question, shouldn’t it be a no brainer?

  2. Sochi’s history of genocide.
Sochi-ProtestThe little known fact among westerners is that Sochi has a bloody history for the indigenous people of Northwest Caucasus. The place of  “Europe’s first modern genocide” occurred in 1859 in the land that is now called Sochi. Russia drove hundreds of thousands of Circassian people from their land where they were then massacred and excommunicated to the Ottoman Empire. This long standing ethnic conflict has fueled jihad extremists and frequent act of terrorism.
Let’s put that into perspective; on a larger scale, this is similar to Germany proposing to build an Olympic arena on top of concentration camps. A place of great sorrow and ethnic cleansing is NOT a place for the celebration of the “spirit of the games”.
Apparently, American multinational corporations did not realize the extent people would go to “throw down”. It will be difficult for these companies to recover from this perceived hypocrisy and even harder for them to appear genuine about their future LGBT relation efforts. It is predicted that this backlash is just the beginning and will last long after Sochi.
 The Drum, conducted a contest for “How Sochi sponsors could support the LGBT cause”, and they came up with some pretty amazing suggestions:
omb12 omb6 omb5 #see_low
click here to see more.

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