global debate over LGBT rights looming in the background of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics, scheduled for Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia, marketers are worried about possible negative impacts for
well-known Russian brands in the U.S. -- even if they aren’t Olympic sponsors. One of the best-known brands with strong Russian links, Stolichnaya, is taking steps to burnish its image as a
supporter of LGBT rights.
On Monday, Stoli Group (USA) announced that it is donating $300,000 to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Leadership Lab, which cultivates leadership
skills in LGBT advocates and supporters here and worldwide. The Lab’s stated mission is to equip LGBT activists to fight anti-LGBT laws here and abroad.
Lorri L. Jean,
CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, noted that LGBT activists in some foreign countries have experienced “big and significant setbacks. Extremists, acknowledging they're losing the battle
here, are expanding their influence in other countries by demonizing LGBT people and attacking our freedoms."
Jean called the Stoli's commitment "extraordinary," adding that it sets a
"terrific example for all corporations.”
Stoli Group president John Esposito stated: “Our position at Stoli is clear. We stand with the LGBT community in the fight for
equality, and are proud to be working with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center to make our joint vision possible.”
The current Olympics controversy concerns a new Russian law that
treats any public discussion of LGBT matters in the public sphere as “propaganda” on behalf of the LGBT lifestyle and makes it subject to criminal penalties. The passage of the law led
LGBT activists in the U.S. and abroad to call for boycotts of brands with Russian associations, including Stolichnaya.
Stoli Group USA responded with an LGBT outreach campaign, clarifying
its opposition to the discriminatory measures, as well as emphasizing that is an international brand, bottled in Latvia and chartered in Belgium.