Olympics Corporate Sponsors Get Grilled On Russian Controversy

Olympic Sponsors

With human rights atrocities causing controversy in Russia, scrutiny of the 2014 Olympic games and its sponsors seems to be at an all time high. LGBT rights advocates have already begun targeting Olympic corporate sponsors such as Procter & Gamble and McDonalds. Now, Buzzfeed is attempting to gather statements from even more corporate sponsors, despite the fact that many seemed reluctant to do so. 

Sochi LogoA vast majority of statements provided back to Buzzfeed seemed to echo prior statements made by the International Olympic Committee. Many even referred to some of those statements directly. Those sponsors included Dow Chemical, Samsung, McDonald’s and Visa, which all used strikingly similar verbiage "down to the adjectives used, suggesting coordination among the sponsors or directly from the IOC itself." All four, for instance, used the sentence, in some form or another, "___________ believes in the spirit of the Games and its unique ability to unite the world in a way that is positive and inspirational."

Panasonic and Adecco, a workforce solutions company, both chose to give responses that were even less committal. Adecco told Buzzfeed “we’re closely monitoring these developments, but I’m afraid we cannot offer a comment at this stage.” Panasonic, meanwhile, informed them that the company “has no involvement in, and is not in a position to comment on political and social matters related to the Olympic Games or specific governments in any country or region.” At the same time, Procter & Gamble and Microsoft chose not to respond to Buzzfeed at all. 

Sochi Olympic RingsGE seemed to be the one sponsor that was willing to hold th IOC accountable in any way, saying in their statement that “we expect the IOC to uphold human rights in every aspect of the Games.” It isn't exactly clear, though, what GE is prepared to do to ensure that standard, or what sort of consequences it intends to present, if any. The IT company Athos took a slightly softer stand, saying that "We are fully confident that the IOC will do the right thing." While that sort of statement is significantly more passive, it at least puts some pressure on the IOC to modify its current stance. 

Some companies also chose to spotlight their previous records of LGBT inclusion and advocacy. One such company was Coca-Cola, which touted its prior record as "a strong supporter of the LGBT community [that has] advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices.” McDonalds also added in their statement that "there’s no room for discrimination under the Golden Arches." 

You can read Buzzfeed's full report HERE


  1. m says

    do these companies want to be on the wrong side of this issue by tacitly approving of the gay pogrom? nice equivocating spin on the part of their spokesmodels.

  2. northalabama says

    i sent an email to each of the sponsors listed in this story, and haven’t received a single response. after reading this post, it’s sad to hear most are not taking this seriously.

  3. Joe in Ct says

    These companies all paid very big bucks to sponsor the games. They are not going to back off their support unless this whole Russian protest thing gets much, much bigger.

  4. Fritz says

    It seems clear that the companies involved are at a loss and waiting to see which way the winds blow. With the IOC’s recent statement that LGBT folks should suck it up, I think public outcry for a boycott will grow. No one expects Putin to play fair; the IOC is a different matter. If ever there was a time that loud activism could turn the tide, this is it.

  5. Jeff says

    Coca Cola (and others) The focus here is not what you have done in the past for LGBT rights. It is actually doing what is right. Period. Not sponsoring hatred and oppressive governments through the Olympics is what is right at this moment. You should ALWAYS do what is right. Do not rest on your laurels.

  6. bkmn says

    I can hear my $$dollars$$ never going to any of these spineless companies again.

    Money talks. Contact these companies and let them know that taking a stand matters.

  7. Red says

    Straight America will come down on Gays if the Olympics are tampered with over gay rights. And a lot of you busy bodies may be the targets. Gay hate isn’t confined to Russia believe me. It’s a double edged sword. What’s the best solution?

  8. Mike Ryan says

    I’m back to this again – money money money rules the Olympic games and threatening (and following through if need be) an all out boycott of any sponsor as well as the Olympic games themselves would result in great havoc and enormous embarrassment for Russia. It could even lead to having the World Games ripped right out from under them. What can we do? Continue the pressure. Do not give up. Do not become the wussies so many of us fall back on. If we HAVE to go to the Olympics then take your rainbow flags and pins and hold hands, even kiss, every guy you can when before the media. Let Russia arrest you and don’t whine when they do (after all you went there, didn’t you?). Embarrass every American and International sponsor until they feel the heat.

  9. Henry Holland says

    Would that be the same GE who made billions on nuclear weapons and other military-industrial complex toys?

    “I can hear my $$dollars$$ never going to any of these spineless companies again”

    Ooooooohhhhh, tough talk in an Internet comments section!!

    Look at those companies, it’s not just the brands you see, it’s dozens and dozens of smaller companies/products that are under their corporate umbrella.

    30 seconds of Googling just Dow, came up with this page:


    I picked Personal Care & Apparel, there’s *8 pages* of products they make that are used in that field, and that’s just one aspect of the company.

    Unless you move to the middle of nowhere and live off the land, without using a single manufactured item –and since you’re on a computer using the Internet, that’s obviously not the case– you’re complicit with corporations, you use their products just like everyone else.

    But hey, Internet posturing is FUN!!!!!

  10. olter says

    I think we should question the companies that actually have branches or subsidiaries in Russia whether their subsidiaries provide equal benefits and mandate non-discriminatory policies in Russia and other countries, wherever they have subsidiaries. If not – why not?

  11. global says

    The anti-boycott trolls/plants here prove that a boycott will make the IOC and Sponsors very nervous. A boycott IS going to happen of all of the advertisers supporting the Olympics.

  12. FranklyBlack says

    Henry Holland is absolutely correct.

    If you look at these companies and their subsidiaries and suppliers, you can only come to one rational conclusion. Boycotting all of them is essentially impossible. And meaningless.

    It isn’t complicity, though. The reality is that the world is intertwined, and simplistic efforts are hardly going to yield the results people are hoping for.

    I say don’t boycott the games, use them to raise awareness.

    And grow up. America is not the world, and the overwhelming attitude of people here is that we somehow have some God given right to dictate to everybody else how to run their countries.

    Congratulations, we’re JUST like our worst enemies !

  13. m says

    if the sponsors fear ruining their reputation and therefore the bottom line they will withdraw support.

    its a business decision. they’re going to do a cost benefit analysis not consult their diversity manager. the potential loss of future business has to be big enough. under that amount don’t expect a reaction.

    now is the time to make noise. how soon we forget that despite the recent advances in our country, equality is not legal here either.

  14. m says

    @ frankly black

    even losses to their subsidiaries or business segments will get attention. more than you realize because somebody’s ass will be on the line. and a whole lot of executives will lose their bonuses. do you not think that will piss them off? its not all or nothing.

  15. Randy says

    In Canada, Hudson’s Bay is the “official outfitter”, and Adidas Canada will make high-performance wear to be sold at Sport Chek.

    All of these companies should be providing apparel that will convey a message of support for Russia’s LGBT youth, in a Canadian Olympic-branded context. This will also send a message to our own LGBT youth, in sport.

  16. Stolidog says

    It’s not that hard. Just don’t watch the games. At this point, there should be a pledge sheet that you’re sitting these games out. That’s what will get NBC and the sponsors to pay attention.
    No viewers, no commercials, no success.

  17. L Goethe says

    I have one main comment: while I support human rights and find the situation in Russia scary, I want to know WHY aren´t´ the International Games NOW in Russia not causing such an outcry? Strangely, I “feel” the Olympics is MEDIA driven The readers are directed to one main event, ignoring the surely gay, lesbian brothers and sister running track are is AS MUCH danger as Winter 2014. Something IS fishy here!

  18. jjose712 says

    Henry Holland: Yes, very fun, but the fact is companies really fear internet’s bad press, and do what they can to avoid it

    L Goethe: That’s because it was impossible to do absolutely nothing about the athletics championships. The olympics and the fifa championships are months (or years) ahead, so it’s possible to change something.

    Frankly, i think athletes can speak freely at this championships, because the authorities will avoid controversy, because if something happens, Russia will lost all the international competitions

  19. global says

    I own two restaurants. As of today we are serving Pepsi products vs. Coke products. I will be letting Coca Cola know why I have dumped them as my soft drink provider in my restaurants.

  20. crispy says

    Hmm, I already stopped buying my beloved Angel Soft because it’s a Georgia-Pacific brand (i.e. the Koch brothers).

    Now I have to stop buying Charmin (P&G).

    WTF am I supposed to wipe my ass with?

  21. walter says

    just replaced all my home appliances damaged by sandy wouldnt even look at ge . and avoiding mcdonald’s could save thousandds of lives a year besides there are other fast food chains were the food is better . we may not be able to boycott all these companies but damn let them know they can’t keep taking gay money and not do something positive

  22. walter says

    just replaced all my home appliances damaged by sandy wouldnt even look at ge . and avoiding mcdonald’s could save thousandds of lives a year besides there are other fast food chains were the food is better . we may not be able to boycott all these companies but damn let them know they can’t keep taking gay money and not do something positive

  23. Michael says

    We need to target one or two sponsors. I say let’s go big: Coca Cola. We can tell Coca Cola that they need to pull out of World Cup in Russia in 2018. This way the boycott has time to take effect and will hopefully get a statement from Coca Cola prior to Sochi. This will also let other companies know that the boycott is not over once Sochi is gone. The World Cup in Russia is at risk with better organization.

  24. DJLee says

    Boycotts will do some damage- but not enough. The sponsors have already paid millions to become an Olympic licensee and expect to earn millions from their advertising and products at the games. The bottom line is will the sponsors give up millions in lieu of gay rights- I don’t think so. To the sponsors and IOC, it IS all about money.

  25. CJ says

    We should be publicly and loudly boycotting these companies products, and letting them know exactly why! Let them know that their sponsorship of the Olympics in Russia will damage their reputation and bottom line, not increase it. And it should be made clear to Atheletes that compete in the hope of winning gold and getting lucrative endorsment deals, that those endorsments won’t be forthcoming because no company will want the face of their product to be someone that put their own personal goals above human rights. The IOC must be made to realise that even if THEIR policy is not to be political, the Russian government’s is not. They will be using the Sochi Olympics as a propaganda tool to show their people that the rest of the world and the IOC (including the companies that sponsored it) endorses what they are doing.

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