Stoli Struggles To Rebuild Its Relationship With The Gay Community

In the wake of human rights violations taking place in Russia, many LGBT rights advocates have chosen to focus their outrage and efforts towards a boycott of Russian vodka, perhaps the most noteworthy of these being the brand Stolichnaya. Previously, protesters have dumped Stoli vodka in the streets as well as interrupted an event sponsored by Stoli in New York City. Stoli's parent company, SPI, has already spoken out against Russian anti-gay laws and expressed its support of the international and Russian LGBT communities.

Now, Stoli is attempting to go even further to quell the animosity built up within the LGBT community. Joe. My. God. recently published a press release sent by Gay Cities, which had this to say:

"In lieu of the national Stoli boycott by some in the LGBT community, GayCities has convinced SPI (Stoli's parent company) to donate $5 for each person whom RSVP's and attends The Most Original Stoli Guy Live in San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas and D.C. The participating charities include local chapters of Equality CA, Equality Texas and the HRC, all whom will be present at the events to accept the donation. GayCities is currently in discussions with SPI to select an international beneficiary that works directly in affecting change for LGBTs in Russia. The organization will be revealed live at The Most Original Stoli Guy finale, which GayCities will stream live from NYC this September."

Original Stoli GuyUnfortunately, the above statement may have been released a bit prematurely, since many of the advocacy organizations listed above are now denying any partnership with Stoli for this promotion. Joe. My. God. subsequently published these statements. First, there's Equality California:

"Equality California denies participating in this promotion and says they never even responded to the publicist who sent the above press release. "

Next comes the HRC:

"The Human Rights Campaign is not participating in The Most Original Stoli Guy events and is not accepting any donations related to these events or otherwise from Stoli. The press release indicating our participation was flat out wrong and the event organizers have unfortunately not provided any information to substantiate their claim."

Finally, we have Equality Texas:

"Equality Texas does not have any relationship with Stoli Vodka or GayCities. We do not have local chapters, and we have no involvement in the Dallas event planned for August 17th. Equality Texas would not accept donations from Stoli."

It seems as though Stoli and SPI have a lot more work to do if they wish to be in the good graces of the gay community. 


  1. Leo says

    Before Adam comes in here and screeches his inane lies…let me again remind everyone that Stoli’s majority ingredients ARE from Russia, ownership is once again RUSSIAN, it’s for PR purposes solely, and the Latvian situation is in regards to its packaging and bottling ONLY. DON’T let one of their marketing plant shills try to convince you otherwise in this comment thread.

  2. MaryM says

    It is possible to buy premium vodka which has no connection to Russia.

    Even though Stoli is bottled in Latvia, it gets its ingredients from Russia.

    Therefore indirectly Stoli is financing fascist persecution of the Russian gay community.

    Ketel 1; Finlandia; Absolut; Smirnoff; Ciroc – none of these have ANY link to Russia.

    Stoli is a corporation – it cares ONLY about money.

    Do not drink Stoli as indirectly you are financing fascism.

  3. Eric says

    what I don’t get is how Stoli donating to local American causes makes things better for queer people in Russia? Shouldn’t they donate to some organization there?

  4. ben baldwin says

    To whom this may apply. Did Stoli issue this release? Who is Gay Cities? Do we also need to burn our Andrew Christians and boycott Queerty as they are media partners? Not drinking Stoli, but I know they don’t make Russian law. What would people like them to do?

  5. Marc C says

    Meanwhile, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence feel completely obliged to wave their pom-poms for this corporate swill because Stoli’s has been known to throw a bone or two their way.

    F the people in Russia as long as I get mine.

  6. Robert says

    Once again, if you dig deep enough, all corporations are evil. The fact that this company is Russian DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MAKE IT EVIL. Do we boycott companies in the U.S. because they’re based in Oklahoma or Alabama? Shouldn’t we? God, these boycotts are so tiresome and pointless. Boycotting Stoli DOES NOTHING TO HELP RUSSIAN LGBTS.

  7. circuitmouse says

    For years people have been consuming alcoholic beverages and OTHER substances in tacit and complicit denial of the harm wrought both HERE and in the country of origin.

    It would be a lot easier for everyone involved if you cooled it with the hypocrisy and did something positive with your time. Of course, these media circus acts have helped all manner of scoundrels get away with all kinds of crap.

    It would be a lot less energy and a LOT more beneficial for all concerned if you all just did something positive, instead. You’ll feel better, and everybody wins (except those who crave being attention)!

  8. Fancy says

    I’m not going to boycott Stoli. This is a ridiculous idea. SPI doesn’t even sell vodka in Russia. It only sells it outside of Russia.

    Not that it matters, this could be a completely Russian based, Russian owned, and Russian sold product and I would still think the boycott is stupid.

    When you all stop driving cars because the gasoline you use to fuel them comes from nations that MURDER gays and treat women like property, then you can pound your chests with moral superiority.

    Until then, I’m going to drink my vodka of choice and give money to a company that by all indications hates the Russian government, Putin, and supports our community where it actually sells it product.

  9. JakeInNYC says

    I have too many unanswered questions about this article to remark either way about Stoli, and I’m really glad other posters have similar questions and concerns.

    Did Stoli issue this release? Who issued it, if not, and what was the real purpose ?

    Who is Gay Cities? I mean, who ARE they REALLY ? Why do we support anything and everything promoted as “gay” without knowing WHO they are ?

    And what’s up with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, why does anybody care about the clown makeup and wigs ?

    Are the most vocal (and belligerent) supports of boycotts actually bothering to donate directly to the organizations in Russia that need it, or are they just big fat hypocrites ?

    Are there ANY “gay” publications that actually do any investigative journalism, or is our entire information network comprised of “news aggregators” that simply regurgitate the same lies and misinformation, over and over again, until nobody bothers to question anything ?

    I want to know exactly WHO these people are that are manipulating us and our perception. What are their agendas ?

    What corporate ties do they have ? And why doesn’t anybody seem to really care ?

  10. andrew says

    @E.C.: I totally agree with your post. If Stoli is interested in LGBT rights they should: ” make those public donations to RUSSIAN LGBT advocacy groups IN RUSSIA”.

  11. says

    Since we can’t actually do anything to Putin, who is responsible for this outrage, lets all lynch somebody who had nothing to do with the problem. That makes sense, sort of like kicking the dog because your boss was in a foul mood.

    It is utterly stupid to attack a company that has nothing to do with this and has been friendly with the gay community. It just sends the message that we want people to stick with us, but we won’t stick with them, unless it Obama, at whose feet we worship and who can do no wrong. What hypocrites!

  12. Fancy says

    @PDX GUY: what the leaves out is that SPI and the Russian government have been entangled in legal battles of the Stoli brand for over a decade. The founder of SPI has fled Russia and lives in the United States. While I have no doubt that through many hoops your money or some part of it makes its way into Russia, I doubt it is particularly significant.

    And as I said before, even if it was Russian, what does the boycott do but in some minor way hurt a company that is no fan of the Russian government and by all indications an ally of the gay community? Where is the litmus test here on what we must stop doing to be good people? Rather than focus on the one brand someone can think of that is Russian, why not rally to raise money for LGBT groups working inside Russia? Why not petition American companies to stop doing business DIRECTLY with the Russian government? In the spectrum of political advocacy, boycotting one brand made by a company that is an ally and which has tenuous connections to Russia at best (and few to the Russian government at all), seems like a really lazy way to make a point.

    I’ll give SPI my money and hope they continue their fight for equality. They appear to be doing more for it than anyone boycotting Stoli.

  13. Sterling Ericsson says

    Shame on you, Towleroad, I expected better from you and Back2Stonewall.

    This boycott of Stolichnaya is completely misguided and it has been from the start.

    SPI Group has been one of the most pro-LGBT companies in the world, if not the most. They have spent millions in funding non-profits and other LGBT organizations. The San Diego Pride Parade wouldn’t exist without them, as they were one of the critical original backers.They spent money directly out of their own pocket to fund a documentary series about the LGBT community.

    Furthermore, Putin absolutely hates SPI Group and its owner, Yuri Sheffler. He’s been trying to take down the company for years, decades. So, really, a boycott of SPI is just helping Putin. This whole thing is actually pro-Russian, not anti-Russian.

    And don’t give me any of that nonsense about it raising awareness, even if we are going after an ally company. As BrightestYoungThings put it, “Actually, that is called scapegoating, and it is one of the most evil things you can do as a human being.”

    You should read their article, it’s brilliant.

  14. tikko says

    I can understand some of the ambivalence about boycotting Stoli/SPI however, I don’t understand how gay people will defend these liquor companies by noting the $$ they donate to gay pride events, etc.

    The only reason companies such as SPI/Stoli, Finlandia, Absolut etc. will gladly throw money at us is because gay people (gay men in particular)are the largest consumers of premium vodka over any other demographic group. There are plenty of marketing studies over the years to back this up.

    We are their cash cows and make up a disproportionate percentage of their sales. Knowing this, of course, they will sponsor just about anything queer-related since it is a good return on a small investment.

    I don’t know whether Stoli is a good/evil company or not but I can assure you, they are not dumping $$ at the gay community for magnanimous reasons.

  15. Stolidog says

    Attacking stoli is ridiculous. Go after NBC by not watching the Olympics.
    Attacking a liberal company that is very gay friendly because of its country of origin is simplistic and self damaging for the gay community.
    Don’t go for a company simply because it is high profile….there are assuredly many Russian companies tat support the anti-gay laws… some research and drag those companies out into the light of day…they are the enemy, not wildly gay friendly stoli.
    Put your thinking caps on.

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