10th February 2014

The Games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way

By Laura Simpson on Monday February 10, 2014

Brands have a powerful influence over the general public and this is something which is often used for commercial gain. On Friday however, we saw brands and media outlets alike coming together in support of one thing – gay rights.

With the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the recent unrest surrounding the passing of Russia’s anti-gay law appears to be even more prevalent. The law, passed in 2013, prohibits the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality to under-18s, effectively making it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships. This move resulted in widespread criticism from around the world.

So with all eyes on Russia, brands decided to show their allegiance. A popular and impactful way to do this was though the changing of a logo, a technique used by many including Google, The Guardian and Channel 4.

The latter also took it one step further, producing a special, tongue-in-cheek advertisement entitled ‘Gay Mountain’. Another great parody video is the ‘Luge’ from the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, showing two athletes kicking off from the starting blocks. It is accompanied with the line ‘The Games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way’. The humorous way both videos have addressed this important issue has resulted in large amounts of engagement online.

My personal gold-medal winning campaign is Principle 6, created by American Apparel. In addition to promotional activity, the brand has produced a range of clothing to be worn by both fans and athletes, with proceeds going directly to LGBT advocacy groups in Russia. The cherry on the campaign cake – using language from the Olympic charter to reinforce the anti-discrimination message without breaking the law.

American Apparel stated on its website: “The Principle 6 campaign uses the language of the Olympic Charter to give athletes and fans a way to speak out against this violence and discrimination before and during the Sochi Olympics without breaking Russian anti-gay laws or violating the Olympic ban on political speech.”

We’ll have to wait and see if this brand powered spotlight on the issue will make a difference in terms of equality, we can only hope it will. But in terms of brand perception it is sure to give them a positive boost in the eyes of the public and has surely helped position the high profile Sochi 2014 as the event which helped boost LGBT up the political agenda – ironically probably the last thing Putin would have wanted!