Two weeks ago I discussed why it is that I believe that SPI Group, the makers of Stolichnaya Vodka (Stoli) outside of Russia, had badly bungled the public relations surrounding the Russian vodka boycott.
It’s actually worse than I knew at the time.
One of the points of defense raised by SPI as evidence of their support for the gay community was a beauty contest called Stoli Guy: (Queerty)
Stoli is very proud of its current exclusive national partnership with Gaycities.com and Queerty.com in search of the Most Original Stoli Guy. This is a fantastic program that started as a local initiative in Colorado and became a national platform.
I shrugged this off as a marketing ploy to attract gay revelers to choose Stoli vodka. It’s barely that.
Look closely at what Stoli offers the winners: (StoliGuy)
What will the 13 local winners receive?
- The chance to become Stoli’s local LGBT Ambassador.
- A trip to New York City, transportation and accommodations courtesy of GayCities.
- Professional photoshoot session.
- Profile featured on Queerty.
- $100 gift certificate from Andrew Christian.
What will the national winner receive?
- The chance to become Stoli’s national LGBT Ambassador.
- Trip to Los Angeles, California to appear as an honorary Andrew Christian model with a featured role in an Andrew Christian video and solo photoshoot with an official Andrew Christian photographer.
- Exclusive interview and photos published on Queerty.
- $500 gift certificate from Andrew Christian.
- Three night stay at Island House Key West. (travel not included)
It looks like Andrew Christian might be forking out some cash (or, at least, free product) and GayCities might be buying a plane ticket, but what is Stoli contributing? Are they really only offering the chance to be an ambassador, aka the guy who goes around bar to bar and says, “Hey, have you tried Stoli Passionfruit? Here’s a discount ticket for your next Stoli drink!”
Not exactly a sponsorship that makes me want to extol their astonishing support.
But Stoli has seen an opportunity to use the Stoli Guy competition to burnish their image. Recognizing that Stoli Guy Night is more likely at this point to drive off a bar’s customers, Queerty and Stoli came up with a great idea. They’ll bribe gay customers to show up:
In lieu of the national Stoli boycott by some in the LGBT community, GayCities has convinced SPI (Stoli’s parent company) to donate $5 for each person whom RSVP’s and attends The Most Original Stoli Guy Live in San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas and D.C. The participating charities include local chapters of Equality CA, Equality Texas and the HRC, all whom will be present at the events to accept the donation. GayCities is currently in discussions with SPI to select an international beneficiary that works directly in affecting change for LGBTs in Russia. The organization will be revealed live at The Most Original Stoli Guy finale, which GayCities will stream live from NYC this September.
Seriously. Five dollars.
Oh, and to make it even more exciting, if you watch the live stream of the Most Original Stoli Guy finale in September, they’ll release the name of the lucky winning organization in Russia chosen to get some part of that five dollars. Well I’m so excited I nearly wet myself.
But if you think that is perhaps the saddest attempt to fix a PR problem you’ve seen in weeks, you haven’t seen this: (Blade)
Three LGBT advocacy groups have disputed claims they will accept money from Stoli raised at events across the country.
“The Human Rights Campaign is not participating in the Most Original Stoli Guy events and is not accepting any donations related to these events or otherwise from Stoli,” Cole-Schwartz said. “The press release indicating our participation was flat out wrong and the event organizers have unfortunately not provided any information to substantiate their claim.”
The Dallas Voice reported that Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said his organization does not have any relationship with Stoli, and would not accept any donations from the vodka brand. Joe.My.God noted an Equality California spokesperson said the group did not respond to Raymundo who sent the press release that noted their participation in the San Francisco and San Diego events that are scheduled to take place later on Wednesday and on Friday.
It hasn’t been a good month for Stoli.