Lessons from the Olympics on doing the right thing.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

The Sochi Olympics are well underway.  There have been the standard issue (#sochi)problems and gaffs (love this fake yet brilliant ad that leverages one of them).  But the games are thankfully devoid of the violence and unrest many feared.  But we’re curious, what with Putin’s anti-gay proclamation and subsequent global support for the gay community, why haven’t we seen a more pronounced stance within the games?

We harken, check that, Luke harkens back to the Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics where during the medal ceremony Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised a black-gloved fist during the American national anthem.   Tommie Smith went on to say that gesture was not a “Black Power” salute, but a “human rights salute”.  And many consider it one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games. (On a side note, after the protest both athletes were expelled from the Games by IOC President Avery Brundage.  Interestingly Brundage had no objections to the Nazi salutes during the 1936 Berlin games).

So where’s the “Rainbow Power” salute?

Should there be one? Are the Olympics the stage to deliver a political message, particularly if it’s the right moral imperative?  Or does it get in the way of what the Olympics are really about… the athletes?

Coincidentally, college football player and NFL hopeful Michael Sam announced this week he’s gay.  If he is drafted into the NFL (he’s expected to be a 3rd-to-5th round pick, so likely will be picked up by a team) he will be the first openly gay player in NFL history.  This news has also generated a lot of support (Obama included). So like the Olympics, I wonder on the day of the draft:  will there be loud support or will people watch quietly?

The lesson for marketers is do you have the guts to stand up for the right thing?  To speak up for what you believe in, even if it’s not popular?  To do what’s right even if it hurts the business in the short term?