Author: M. G.
These are really tough days for the LGBT community in Russia, therefore Coca-Cola, the main sponsor of Sochi's Olympics, is now having a really bad times with gays.
All Out, the international gay-rights organization, is putting Coca-Cola under a lot of pressure for some months already. Almost 150,000 people had already signed a petition for the Atlanta-based multinational, asking them to take a strong stand against the Russian anti-gay laws and All Out is working hard on putting Coca-Cola's silence to this request in the international spotlight.
After having raised over $30,000 in a few hours, last Monday three massive billboards were parading in front of the Coca-Cola HQ, saying "Coca-Cola, don't stay bottled up, speak out against Russia's anti-gay laws". Quite impressive, we love you so much!
The message is pretty simple: public opinion is waiting for somebody to say something. None of the sponsors of the games demonstrated support for gay equity in Russia so far, including Coca-Cola, a brand that in the past already supported various LGBT causes. Since image is everything nowadays, especially if you're one of the biggest multinationals in the world, this silence is damaging their own reputation. Being paralyzed in confusion in between your western customers and investments in non-democratic countries has to be difficult. Nonetheless, who cares? We're talking about a place where people who dare to demonstrate in the streets are simply taken away in a police van and disappear.
Masha Gessen is one of Russia's most prominent gay rights activists and she writes for The Times: she made a point saying that sponsors and not athletes should make political statements when it comes to controversial issues during an Olympic event. "It will be a lot more effective to put a rainbow on every Olympic Coke can than for an American athlete to say something that won't even get broadcasted or translated on Russian TV," she said to The New Yorker.
At the moment, the gay community is angry and ready to get even louder and more visible if necessary. These brands should really consider taking some action before further damaging their own name in front of the entire international community. The power of symbols and images is huge, and they know it.