Author: M. G.
A joint open letter to the top 10 main sponsors of Sochi 2014 was sent by 40 major human rights groups on January 31. Obviously the letter urges the firms to speak out against the many violations of human rights now happening in Russia. What's important is that the letter wasn't simply sent to the brands but to the real people behind the brands. These are their names: Andrew N. Liveris, Jeffrey R. Immelt, Joseph M. Taylor, Donald Thompson, Alan G. Lafley, Stephen Urquhart, Oh-Hyun Kwon, Muhtar Kent, Charles W. Scharf and Thierry Breton.
Each of them has the power to transform Sochi Olympics into an event able to promote human rights and social respect instead of keeping it as a ridiculous celebration of a dictatorship - I really can't stop thinking about the Olympic Games of Berlin in 1936.
The promotion of an anti-LGBT culture isn't the only problem in Russia at the moment, in fact, according to Human Rights Watch, the issue also concerns the "exploitation of workers on Olympic venues and other sites in Sochi, forced evictions, environmental and health hazards and intimidation and harassment of journalists and activists seeking to document these abuses." If not enough, to have a further impression of Sochi's organisers style, you can also read how private companies are now being hired to kill stray dogs before the begin of the event.
Ghandi was right when, while asked about what are human rights, said that we should better talk about human duties. A right is easier to define than a duty because general statement about what people must do are controversial. Still, this is a matter that can be discussed considering any single case. Talking about Sochi 2014, sponsors still think it's convenient to ignore the pressure coming from human rights promoters and they aren't acting accordingly with what we could call a ‘human duty'. Just finding excuses.
What should be kept in mind is that a brand has no values per se -a brand has an identity made by people (the customers). This identity is built spending millions in advertising and by different kinds of projects - like sponsorships - and a brand should be coherent to this identity to keep being seen as trustworthy towards both customers and partners. On the other hand, the trust of your customer is quite different from the trust of your partner and, let me say, when you decide to have someone like Mr Vladimir Putin, or his entourage, as a business partner, be ready to eat s**t. Those mentioned at the beginning of this post begun doing that as soon as the protests against Sochi 2014 started. Are these CEOs happy with that? Apparently they are, because still there aren't any signs of afterthoughts about their support.