Anger at Coca-Cola’s cynical efforts to target the gay market while refusing to take a stand against Russian homophobia is spilling over within the global LGBT community.
The company, which is one of the main sponsors of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in Russia next month, has continued to reject calls by LGBT activists for it to take an active stance in condemning the country’s anti-gay laws.
It’s a difficult position to be in when it comes to consumers and activists using the power of social media to make their voices heard in exposing corporate sleight of hands.
To add to its woes, Coca-Cola has been criticised for its biased and badly conceived online “Share a Coke” campaign in which members of the public are able to type a name or word onto a virtual coke can and share it on social media.
When one attempts to type “gay” onto the can, however, the site rejects the word with the message:
“Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that. Please try another name”.
The site, however, happily accepts the words “heterosexual” and “straight”. Try it yourself here.
The company has also been accused of cynicism after it recently posted its 1971 television ad with the hit song I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony) on Facebook.
It included the caption: “Cheers to the fact that a song can top the charts and be about love, equality and happiness”.
Facebook users immediately began commenting on the company’s hypocrisy.
One man wrote: “Beautiful song. It’s a shame its message is now so sullied by Coke’s connection with Sochi and the persecution of gays and lesbians, bisexual and transgenders throughout Russia.”
Coca-Cola only further infuriated people by apparently deleting some of the comments, as noted by US based activist Melanie Nathan.
She slammed Coca-Cola for having “the audacity to link themselves to love and equality and happiness while sponsoring and supporting the Anti-gay SOCHI GAMES”.
South African LGBT activist Christina Engela has joined many others in a boycott of the soft drinks company.
“Folks, as of now I am boycotting all Coca Cola products, and I urge everyone who cares about human rights and the abuses of human rights against its own LGBT people by the Russian government – and who find the determined Coca Cola drive to sponsor the Sochi (Russian) Olympics offensive, to join me,” she wrote on Facebook.
Activists from Queer Nation have reacted by creating a spoof version of the I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing advert that is intercut with footage of LGBT protesters in Russia being arrested and attacked by right-wing thugs.
“The Real Thing for Russia’s LGBT community includes brutal violence, complete oppression of the basic human right to speech, assembly and expression. Coke cares only about their Sochi profits,” commented Queer Nation on YouTube.
The brilliant and highly effective video is going viral, only adding to Coca-Cola’s growing PR nightmare. Watch it below.