Coke has gone into an Olympic-sized closet, downplaying its Sochi sponsorship

Coca-Cola is one of the top sponsors of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  But you wouldn’t know it if you lived in America.

Coke’s normally ubiquitous Olympic-related product marketing is nearly non-existent this year.  At least in the US.

But if you live in Russia, Coke is everywhere.  As the Olympic flame has been making its way through Russia this past week, Coke was there, making sure the crowds were holding all sorts of Coca-Cola-branded paraphernalia.  Heck, Coca-Cola even put its logo on Olympic security officers who pounced on a gay rights advocate in Russia this past weekend.

“Coke is a huge story on its own,” says Ken Kidd of Queer Nation, a gay rights that’s been taking the lead in dogging Olympic sponsors, and friends of Putin. “Where are the in-store case cards and aisle promotions? Where are the Olympic rings on their cans and bottles? The sweepstakes tie-ins? Have you seen a Sochi Coke-themed commercial in the US? I certainly haven’t.”

Rainbow-flag-toting gay rights advocate Pavel Lebedev is jumped on by Olympic security that is sporting the Coke log, while a spectator holds a Coke flag in hand.

Rainbow-flag-toting gay rights advocate Pavel Lebedev is jumped on by Olympic security that is sporting the Coke log, while a spectator holds a Coke flag in hand.

I’d read that Coke is focusing a lot on Russia itself, to build its share of the Russian soft drink market.  But still, to be missing in action in America is rather odd, and telling.

We know that Olympic sponsors – particularly American ones – have been squirming for months now, in response to the sustained outcry from gay rights advocates over Russia’s crackdown on its gay and trans citizens.  The International Olympic Committee even admitted it back in September:

“I have heard a lot from the sponsors, especially the American sponsors, of what they are afraid of might happen,” IOC marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg said. “I think this could ruin a lot for all of us,” he added, saying the IOC would enforce its rules against demonstrations.

Things are so bad, one marketing expert dubbed Sochi “the danger games” for advertisers.

And as if Coke didn’t have a big enough problem with the gays, BusinessWeek warned a few weeks ago that there is concern terrorists could target “events organized by corporate sponsors, which include U.S. giants Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Procter & Gamble.”

Ironically, after all the warnings about black widow suicide bombers infiltrating the Olympic Village, and Russian President Vladimir Putin suggesting that gay people have something to do with why Russians aren’t having enough babies, and that therefore Russia needs to “cleanse” itself of gays (Putin borrowed the phrase from Hitler), Russia’s original plan was to use the Sochi Olympics to showcase what a neat, modern country Russia had become:

[Russia’s] original aim of hosting the Games, on which it has spent $50 billion, was to project itself on the global stage as a modern and forward-looking nation.

How’s that working out for you, Boris?

Russian vigilantes show off a young gay boy they claim to have abducted and then doused with urine after entrapping him via a gay social media site.  Until recently, the Russian authorities showed no interest in prosecuting the nationwide network of kidnappers that has operated for 18 months with impunity.

Russian vigilantes show off a young gay boy they claim to have abducted and then doused with urine after entrapping him via a gay social media site. Until recently, the Russian authorities showed no interest in prosecuting the nationwide network of ultra-nationalist, anti-gay, and racist kidnappers that has operated for 18 months in their country with impunity. Can’t you just smell the modernity?

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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38 Responses to “Coke has gone into an Olympic-sized closet, downplaying its Sochi sponsorship”

  1. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Someone who is homophobic as you are probably wants a penis shoved in his face.

  2. Coastal Doc says:

    I saw the Visa ad with the gay flag. They have the right of airing an ad touting homosexuality. I have the right of cancelling my visa card and switching to Master Card, which I will do this week. I don’t like having homosexuality shoved in my face.

  3. perljammer says:

    Wow, thanks for the research! For what it’s worth, I have a pretty high opinion of Acer computers — I’ve had occasion to use a number of them, both desktops and laptops, and I currently own an Acer netbook that I really like a lot. I would take Acer over Gateway any day; I don’t know anything about Packard Bell machines.

  4. Looked It Up says:

    A little history and correction: Acer had a contract with the IOC as a TOP (The Olympic Partner) sponsor through 2013. The page identifying Worldwide TOP sponsors, included Acer for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

    According to the July 26, 2012 article posted by Keith Weir of Reuters:
    “We are concentrating on London now,” said Anton Mitsyuk, who heads the company’s Olympic programme.

    Mitsyuk, who is Russian, would not be drawn on whether Acer would still be the IOC’s computer equipment sponsor when the Winter Games are held in Sochi in his home country in 2014.

    According to a posting by Karolos Grohmann of Reuters published January 16, 2013 by the Chicago Tribune:
    The International Olympic Committee is planning to add a new sponsor in 2013 to replace computer manufacturer Acer, taking advantage of a favourable climate created by the London 2012 Olympics, the IOC’s marketing chief said.

    It appears Samsung and Panasonic joined the IOC TOP program as a result of Acer’s non-renewal of its contract.

    With this in mind, my next PC/laptop may very well be an Acer branded product: Acer, eMachines, Gateway, or Packard Bell.

    The August 30-September 2, 2013 post of the Global Language Monitor identified:
    The Sochi Winter Olympics have ten Worldwide Olympic Partners: Atos Origin, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonald’s, Omega watches. Panasonic, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Samsung, and Visa Card.

    The official website for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games does NOT have Acer in the listing of Worldwide Olympic Partners.

  5. Drew2u says:

    “I just find it weird that everyone is attacking the Olympics when its the Russian Government that made this law and not the IOC…..”

    What are you talking about? Multiple sites, such as this one, have been documenting the anti-gay bills Russia put forth and then signed into law. When talking about the Olympics, this site – among others – wanted to see how the international committees were going to handle it. Sites like this one also continued to talk about the plight of gay Russians as people like Thomas Roberts and “rocketman singer guy” thought their celebrity-presence-alone would do something (it didn’t).
    So with the Olympics and the sponsors bungling and trying to hide the anti-gay violence in Russia, sites like this one are holding those companies accountable for their actions and inactions.

    The fact that the olympics have been trying to cover up what’s going on in Russia at the safety of its athletes and spectators is not mutually exclusive to Russia passing all these anti-gay laws. Both can be true at the same time. The IOC had plenty of availability to use its weight to bring to light the atrocities of the Russian government, especially since, as you pointed out, those laws came about AFTER Russia won the bid.

  6. Timmybear says:

    Hmmm – nothing I’ve posted to COKE has disappeared. Maybe it’s a Coke Canada vs. Coke USA thing?

  7. Keith Hooper says:

    When all people of all other countries start admitting there own human rights violation tactics then and only then can anyone point the finger at another country… With that I do not agree with whatever the law is they have there that gay’s can not publicly display there personalities “called propaganda there” I just find it weird that everyone is attacking the Olympics when its the Russian Government that made this law and not the IOC….. Also remember the law came in years after Russia was awarded the games and for the Olympics to pull out would cost billions, and that does not include all the tax dollars we lose for helping our athelite train and go there…

  8. clarknt67 says:

    Get on it and send your information to John, he’ll post on it.

  9. oxhanoverxo says:

    Samsung, Red Bull and Visa are also sponsors. Wheres the protest for those companies?

  10. karmanot says:

    Sorry Drew, but Killery is a draconian law unto herself.

  11. kirk34 says:

    I posted these links to the COKE Facebook page, and they disappeared within 30 seconds. I did, however, post the link as a comment and I think the links are still up.

  12. Cary6677 says:

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  13. Drew2u says:

    Watch almost any other news outlet and you’ll hear talk about the security at the games, but virtually nothing about Russian’s human rights violations.
    Speaking of which, isn’t there a UN charter or something, or Hillary Clinton, to speak out against the draconian laws on the eve of the games?

  14. BillFromDover says:

    Catch the wave.

  15. BeccaM says:

    Yep. I firmly believe that every time some Sochi Olympics goon wearing the Coke logo roughs up, harasses, or detains an LGBT person, the images should be plastered all over the Internet.

  16. UncleBucky says:

    Jeffery C,

    And about the LGBT issue in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Coke??? How about that… you wasted valuable bytes by the blather after….

    “…As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate
    diversity. We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community…”

    Total blather.

  17. UncleBucky says:

    “Coke’s normally ubiquitous Olympic-related product marketing is nearly non-existent this year. At least in the US.”

    Very well, then it’s up to US to daylight COKE-Russian partnerships…

  18. karmanot says:

    “As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate
    diversity.” And that includes Nazism, communism, dictatorship, apartheid, and anti-gay Putinism.

  19. HolyMoly says:

    The object is to write to them and in your e-mail carefully pre-empt every single cliche “we celebrate diversity” and “we support the LGBT community” and “we do not condone human rights abuses” that they might use in response (Ex: “If you don’t condone human rights abuses, intolerance, etc. anywhere in the world, then why haven’t you spoken up about Russia’s human rights abuses, intolerance, etc.? Will you, now that it is painfully obvious that such things are taking place, make a statement condemning it?”). A couple of possible responses would be:

    (1) The same cliche, PR hack-generated response. Maybe key words in your message would automatically generate this response, and no human ever sees what you wrote. (But believe that they are keeping track of just how many negative e-mails they receive.)

    (2) A response uniquely tailored to address your message. Although this will show that someone is actually reading them, the response will still avoid the issue by giving a non-answer or misdirection, much like politicians do.

    They need to be forced — publicly, if at all possible — into a “yes” or “no” type of response. They won’t give you a “yes” or “no,” but by repeatedly evading questions like this, I think people will begin to form their own opinions about just what their answer might really be. And that won’t bode well for Coke.

  20. Cuberly says:

    A Queer Nation post at the epic McDonalds #cheerstosochi debacle just stated the obvious.

    This will go down in the text books as a perfect example of what NOT to do as a Marketing campaign.

    Maybe Coke saw the writing on the wall. Lord knows McD’s didn’t.

  21. BeccaM says:

    I drink home-brewed iced tea most of the time. For me, a Coke is something I’ll have maybe once every six months if the mood strikes.

    Won’t be hard to give up that little bit remaining.

  22. BeccaM says:

    Translation: “Blah blah blah not our fault blah we don’t discriminate blah uphold ideals blah memorable experience blah protester had it coming blah fuck off and don’t bother us blah blah sincerely blah here’s a reference number for further questions so we’ll know it’s you we’re ignoring.”

  23. mirror says:

    I’m in a bit of an Americablog bubble here, but I can’t help but think Russia is going to come out of this having more of an image of being backward than they started with. And, of course, there is also the compounding effect of the ubiquitous, and very popular, Russian dash cam accident videos.

  24. mirror says:

    I concur. Well done, Americablog!

  25. This is one of the reasons I stopped drinking all soda/pop last night. I don’t want anything more to do with these people.

  26. karmanot says:

    Absolutely! John and the Americablog gang have done an amazing job!

  27. Julianna David says:


    ☮☮☮☮ ☮☮☮☮☮ ☮☮️☮☮ ☮☮︀☮ ☮☮☮Coke’s normally ubiquitous Olympic-related product marketing ” — wow, you’re right,

  28. DCM70508 says:

    Please sign the new petition being sent to NBC and the International Olympic Committee called the “TOP TEN REASONS WHY WE WON’T BE WATCHING THE 2014 SOCHI OLYMPICS”. Let them know we won’t support corporations and organizations that put money and profits ahead of people and human rights.

  29. Strepsi says:

    I think that’s John’s point in this article, that Russia is sooo bad that even Coke doesn’t want to be associated with it in North America.

    Of course, they know that Russians are 80% awful so happy to pander to them: but with cameras in phones and social media, they cannot be two-faced any more. That’s why we have to keep up the pressure here, that we know what they are doing over there.

  30. jomicur says:

    There have been several times in my life when I’ve been quite inordinately proud of my LGBT community, the Prop 8 fight, the ’93 March on Washington, etc. Our strong, focused, relentless response to these Olympics joins the list. The way we have forced an unwilling corporate-cum-media establishment to pay attention to an issue I’d daresay they’d rather ignore has been nothing less than sublime. Now, if we can find effective ways to keep up the pressure on Russia and its corporate allies after the games are over, my metaphorical bosom will swell with pride to the point of bursting.

  31. Savage8862 says:

    When asked about the detaining of the activist, here is what Coca-Cola emailed me:

    Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company. We appreciate the
    opportunity to respond.

    As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate
    diversity. We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and
    have advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and
    practices. We do not condone human rights abuses, intolerance or
    discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world.

    As a sponsor since 1928, we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good
    that unite people through a common interest in sports, and we have seen
    firsthand the positive impact and long-lasting legacy they leave on every
    community that has been a host.

    We support the ideals of the Olympics and are proud to continue our role in
    helping to make the Olympics a memorable experience for athletes, fans and
    communities all around the world.

    As a Presenting Partner of
    the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay, our logo appears on all of the uniforms for
    the staff assigned by the Sochi Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games
    (SOCOG) to support the Torch Relay.

    SOCOG reported that a spectator was prevented from breaching the security
    perimeter around the Torchbearer. The spectator was detained briefly
    by local police and was fined.

    We hope this information is helpful and encourage you to contact us again
    should you have additional comments or questions.

    Jeffrey C

    Industry and Consumer Affairs

    The Coca-Cola Company

    Please use the record number below should you have additional questions.

  32. clarknt67 says:

    With much Fanfare, Coke announced a star studded Sochi Olympic Ambassador tour in June.

    We haven’t heard boo out of Michelle Kwan and their others about Coke.

  33. perljammer says:

    The “worldwide sponsors” of the Olympics are listed below. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a US television commercial for Acer or Atos, and very few from Omega. But I can’t say I’ve noticed any Olympics-related advertising from ANY of these outfits recently. Coca-Cola is a regular advertiser on NFL games, but the commercials I’ve seen have all been the generic polar bear ones. No “proud sponsor of the 2014 Winter Olympics” from Coke or any of the others.

    Acer, Inc. (computers)
    Atos (French IT company)
    Dow Chemical
    General Electric
    Omega SA (Swiss watch company)
    Proctor & Gamble
    Visa, Inc.

  34. heimaey says:

    Well none of these companies are saints.

  35. heimaey says:

    Ugh – feeling guilty about my coke zero addiction now.

  36. Strepsi says:

    “Coke’s normally ubiquitous Olympic-related product marketing ” — wow, you’re right, I hadn’t thought about it but i have seen NOTHING on TV or in the aisles, whereas for Vancouver 2010 you literally could not find a Coke product without the rings!

  37. dommyluc says:

    Some water, sugar, caramel color and artificial flavorings isn’t that hard to give up and live without, especially when it’s overpriced to the max. I can always drink filtered tap water and generic Kool-Aid and fruit juice. I drink Pepsi anyway, but if they fuck up royally like Coke I’ll throw them into the trash bin of consumerism also. Oh, and if Coke gets besieged TOO much, expect our dumbass right-wing friends to embarrass themselves by trying to defend it, like the “Dick Die Nasty” family. I can see Sarah Palin, She-Wolf of the GOP, swigging on a 3-litre bottle already.

  38. Henry Owen says:

    Coke my hide from the American public, but they can’t deny their complicity in sponsoring hate, all in the name of profit. Shame on them (I say this as I’m sipping on a Dr. Pepper…).

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