— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) February 4, 2014
With the Sochi Winter Olympics set to kick-off at the end of this week, sponsoring brands continue to traverse volatile territory amid Russia’s anti-gay laws, spurring protests and social outcry from fans, activists and athletes.
Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are among those who’ve seen their promotional efforts on social media virtually hijacked by gay rights activists that have demanded that the major sponsors drop their support of the games in light of the unstable social situation in Russia, as well as for the safety of incoming Olympic athletes of the LGBT community.
McDonald’s had to sit back and watch as its “Cheers To Sochi” social campaign was taken over by activists using the campaign’s hashtag to bring attention to the abuses that the LGBT community has suffered in the nation.
Author and activist Dan Savage tweeted, “Hey, @McDonalds: You’re sending #CheersToSochi while goons wearing Olympic uniforms assault LGBT people,” referring to the assault of activist Pavel Lebedev by Olympics staff (donning Coke-adorned uniforms) in Russia for his “crime” of waving a small rainbow flag as the Olympic torch passed by.
“Social media campaigns are particularly perilous, given that they are far more a dialogue than a monologue, as McDonald’s found out,” as activist Scott Wooledge pointed out. “The company is usually a Chatty Cathy to folks on Twitter; they have not responded to any LGBT objectors.” Instead, it seems that McDonald’s has completely dropped the #CheersToSochi hashtag from any of its social messaging around the campaign.[more]
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) February 1, 2014
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) January 30, 2014
“Sochi potentially is the danger Games,” Peter Walshe, a global account director at Millward Brown told Reuters last year. “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.”
Coca-Cola, too, saw its Sochi promotional efforts taken over on social media by activists, urging the brand to speak out against the treatment of the LGBT community in the country. Queer Nation NY even re-mixed the brand’s inconic 1971 ad “Buy the World a Coke” to include Russian protestors being attacked. Things reached a head when Olympic security guards donning uniforms emblazoned with the Coke logo detained an on-looker that was waving a rainbow flag during the Olympic Torch relay.
Coca-Cola responded, and is sending a message via an extended version of its groundbreaking Super Bowl commercial, “It’s Beautiful.” The 60-second spot, which generated some controversy due to its diverse ensemble of subjects singing America The Beautiful, will be the first Olympic ad to feature a gay couple.
Check out the 90-second extended version that will debut on TV for the first time during the opening Olympic ceremonies Friday night: