AirTalk for February 3, 2014

McDonald's and Coke feel the heat over support for Sochi Olympics

Previews - Winter Olympics Day -4

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A view of a Coca-Cola machine featuring Alex Ovechkin of Russia ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

Activists are targeting Coca Cola and McDonald's, two of the biggest sponsors of the Olympic Games starting this week in Sochi, amid growing concern about Russia's gay rights record. Russia has been heavily criticized for a federal law against "homosexual propaganda" that's widely seen as anti-gay.

Last week, Janet Napolitano, Head of the US Olympic Delegation, spoke out against protests saying, “My view is that we’re going there for the athletes and for their performances and I think that’s where the focus ought to be. And I’m not sure this is an appropriate place or time for political protests of that sort.” 

At least two colleges have banned Coke products from their campuses in protest. Activists took over a McDonald's social media campaign by hijacking their #CheersToSochi hashtag to rant against the corporation's support for the Games.

Coke was forced to shut down an Olympic-related feature that allowed people to put names and messages on virtual soda cans after the company banned the word "gay". The famous "buy the world a Coke" commercial from 1971 was taken over and re-edited by a group called Queer Nation NY to add scenes of gay rights protesters in Russia being attacked.

The companies are defending their support of Sochi Olympics where they're paying big money to have their brands associated with the world's best athletes.

Why are the protesters targeting the corporate sponsors? Do social protests against large corporations have any lasting effect? Should Coke and McDonald's be concerned at all about an gay rights backlash?

 

Guests:

Michelangelo Signorile, editor-at-large of Huffington Post Gay Voices and author of Queer in America

Suzanne Shu, assistant professor of marketing at UCLA's Anderson School of Management


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