Putin’s anti-gay laws, which forbid promotion of non-heterosexual relationships to children, seem to be occupying a far greater share of voice than the sport.
The anti-gay laws are a problem for Olympic sponsors. The Olympics are an event promoting inclusion and it is these brand values that sponsors buy into and associate themselves with. The Olympic values include respect, excellence and friendship. Not exactly what is on the table in Russia for homosexuals.
Olympic sponsors are not keen on making political statements in general. After all, the Games move to a different host country so regularly that the politics of the nation will not always match the brands. This is an accepted fact. And in the main, sponsors tend to avoid any reference to politics and stay pretty close to the Olympic themes.
Not this time. It started off with Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola, which featured gay marriage in an advert about promoting optimism, happiness and inclusion. But then non-Olympic partners joined in. Google kicked off the opening day of the Games by featuring its logo showing images of sports with the rainbow flag, which stands for gay pride.
The alcohol firm Brewdog has got in on the act with a beer called “Hello, My Name is Vladimir”, promoting it with the sarcastic hashtag #NotForGays. Channel 4 has created a campaign which features the lyrics ”Gay mountain, gay mountain. Be proud on gay mountain” while a rotund Russian man in red underpants sings to an audience of gay men and women. The G in Guardian online logo was flying the gay-pride flag on Friday.
In the States, Chevrolet launched an ad featuring families headed by same sex couples for the first time in the ad break for the Opening Ceremony.
Greek-yoghurt maker Chobani, a US team sponsor, released an image on Twitter featuring coloured yoghurt cups stacked to show the gay-pride rainbow flag with the strapline “Naturally empowering everyone”. Meanwhile, fellow US team sponsor AT&T put out a statement supporting gay rights and slamming Russia’s anti-gay laws.
So there you have it. Sochi – the gayest Olympics yet. At least, the gayest Olympics for marketers. And that’s a start.