NEW YORK — While several Olympic sponsors have spoken out against Russia's restrictions on gay rights ahead of the Sochi Winter Games, Chevrolet is rolling out two ads during the U.S. broadcast of the opening ceremony on Friday that feature gay couples.
The ads are the first to feature gay couples during an Olympic broadcast, according to GLAAD, an advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They also come at a time when a fairly new Russia law banning gay "propaganda" from reaching minors has drawn strong international criticism ahead of the Games.
Three sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee — AT&T, DeVry University and yogurt maker Chobani — have spoken out explicitly against the Russian law. Other companies that have remained silent on the issue have been criticized on social media. And there have been calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games from gay activists and others around the world.
Chevy, a unit of General Motors Co. that is not an official sponsor, didn't comment on the Russian laws specifically, instead saying in a statement that "these ads ... are not intended as any political commentary."
But some advertising experts say the commercials make a pretty clear statement. "Actions speak louder than words," said Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York office of branding firm Landor Associates. "The action of putting a spot on the Olympics is far more powerful than a press release. It's a very clear statement of what they believe Chevy stands for."
One ad, called "The New Us," for the Chevrolet Traverse crossover SUV, shows quick shots of many different families, including a gay male couple with a son and a daughter. "While what it means to be a family hasn't changed, what a family looks like has," a voiceover states. "This is the new us."
Another ad, an overall Chevrolet brand spot, features a pastiche of different images of America, including a shot of a gay couple getting married. "Like the old love, the new love starts with a kiss," a voiceover states. "Like the old community, the new community still keeps us connected. ... A whole new lineup for a whole new world."
The ads are the latest example of advertisers trying to be more inclusive in terms of who they show in their commercials. During the Super Bowl last week, Cheerios featured an interracial couple and Coca-Cola showcased a diverse array of families from different ethnicities and backgrounds, including a gay couple. The Coke ad was the first time a gay couple had been featured in a Super Bowl ad.
The ads "truly reflect the fabric of our nation, which today includes gay and lesbian families," GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said.