Unfortunately, most of the news about the Sochi Winter Games concerns either Vladimir Putin‘s insane security state or his decision to pass homophobic laws and tell gay athletes/visitors that they can “feel calm and at ease” as long as they “leave the children alone.”
When Dan Savage and others first called upon Westerners to boycott Russian vodka, Stolichnaya was understandably the first brand that came to mind. Stoli responded with pro-gay Facebook campaigns and interviews in which spokespeople reminded protesters that the product is actually filtered and processed in Latvia, because big difference.
Now the brand has taken the “we’re not Russian or anti-gay” campaign a bit further as the boycott continues courtesy of one House, M.D.
First, Stoli’s North American president John Esposito placed an op-ed in The Advocate under the headline “From the Parade to the Front Lines“, arguing that his brand is a better friend to the LGBT community than, say, Kathy Griffin. Esposito put some money behind his words by donating $300,000 to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Leadership Lab, which trains activists to fight laws like the ones Putin just passed.
Of course, some of this outreach is still spin: despite not being a truly Russian brand, Stoli/SPI Group does maintain production centers in the former U.S.S.R. that aren’t protected by the same sort of anti-discrimination laws enacted in other countries.
But, given the fact that this move won mentions on top gay blogs, we’d call it a success.
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