Thursday, February 6, 2014

Coca-Cola: My Take on The Super Bowl, The Olympics, and the Opportunity


Kudos to Coca-Cola. The company broke history a few days ago by being the first brand to feature a same-sex couple in a Super Bowl commercial. In case you missed it, here it is:

While I enjoyed the commercial seeing it live, I didn't particularly notice the scene of the gay couple. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. Maybe the scene was too quick. Or maybe I'm just so used to it that i didn't phase me. Or maybe it was a combination of multiple factors. Nonetheless, I like the spot - and Coca-Cola - even more now. And so do many LGBT groups and supporters here and aroung the world. But the spot sparked both positive and negative reaction. Here's just a sampling: 
Perhaps my favorite response was from this reporter who criticized the critics of the ad by pointing out what the above article did - that the songwriter of "America the Beautiful," Katherine Lee Bates, was a lesbian: 

Still though, some in the LGBT community see Coke's effort as one to try and combat the negative press they received from supporting the Olympics. And if you live under a rock, the Olympics are being held in Russia, a country with very anti-LGBT laws including a law against gay propoganda. Because apparently our "choice" to be gay is something we can be persuaded into as children. Get real. 

But even if Coke is trying to do something nice for the LGBT community to combat the bad press surrounding the Olympics, my response is... bravo and thank-you. It's something pretty big. And after all, Coke's Olympic marketing isn't a celebration of Russia - it's a celebration of the Olympics, something the Coca-Cola brand has long been known for. Pulling out of the Olympics wouldn't be right for the brand, wouldn't be fair to the many LGBT Olympic athletes or to the billions of Olympics fans around the world. Nonetheless, many LGBT activists are angry at Coke and even boycotting the brand through campaigns like DumpCoke

So what can Coke do? The bottom line to the critics within the LGBT community is that Coke's endorsement still supports Russia both by association and in more tangible ways. So I believe there is just one more step Coke must take: Issue a simple statement distancing your brand from Russia's anti-gay policies and denouncing them. 

Coca Cola is the world's most iconic brand. It's in the hands and bodies of more people in more places every day than any other brand. They have a platform not just to support the global LGBT community, but to elevate and invite more people into the conversation about equality and human rights around the world. And wouldn't that be an amazing thing for a brand like Coke to accomplish?

Not to mention, the very culture of the Coca-Cola company is a model for inclusiveness and pro-LGBT policies - so much so that they have a perfect 100 rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy organization in the United States. 

Coca-Cola has done something amazing and historic not just in the Super Bowl spot it aired, but in the culture of inclusiveness and happiness it has created both internally and around the world. All they need to do to seal the deal is take a lesson from AT&T by posting their stance against Russia's policies on their corporate blog or website. Coke: The world is rooting for you. 

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