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SBD Global/July 30, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Corporations Linked To Sochi 2014 Could Face Boycott Due To Russia's Anti-Gay Law

Corporations linked to the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia, including NBC, "could be put on the defensive as gay-rights supporters urge U.S. officials to fight back against the country's draconian laws, including potentially boycotting the Games," according to E.J. Schultz of ADVERTISING AGE. Stolichnaya Vodka "has come out swinging against the Russian government's anti-gay policies." The brand responded aggressively, including posting a colorful message across its website and Facebook page saying it "stands strong and proud with the global LGBT community against the attitude and actions of the Russian government." The controversy "could cause headaches for U.S. corporations linked to the 2014 Winter Olympics that will be hosted in Sochi, Russia." In a column in the N.Y. Times this week, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein called on the U.S. Olympic Committee to demand retraction of Russia's laws "under the threat of boycott." Still, "other gay-rights groups are opposed to a boycott." Outsports, which described itself as the "galactic leader in gay sports," recently editorialized that "the LGBT community needs to go after politicians and government officials to affect change in Russia and leave the future of Olympic athletes alone." Among those with a major stake in the Olympics proceeding as normal include NBC, "which will broadcast the Games, as well as major corporations such as Coca-Cola, AT&T and General Motors that have committed to millions of dollars in advertising." The Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday sent a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke urging the company to use its "unique opportunity" to "expose this inhumane and unjust law to the millions of American viewers who will tune into watch the Games" (ADVERTISING AGE, 7/29). In London, Ed Pilkington wrote NBC Sports Chair Mark Lazarus said that "there would be reporting of the issue but only if it should emerge as a problem during the Games." Lazarus told an audience at the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills that "the issue of Russia's clampdown on gay men and lesbians had already been dealt with" by the IOC. The comments from Lazarus "are unlikely to tamp down calls from the LGBT community for NBC to highlight Russia's aggressively anti-gay laws in its coverage of the Winter Olympics" that begin in Sochi on Feb. 6 and run for 18 days (GUARDIAN, 7/28).
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