SPI was caught up in a gay boycott of Russian vodka last year

SPI was caught up in a gay boycott of Russian vodka last year

SPI Group's US unit is to invest US$300,000 in a gay and lesbian leadership programme to help train “the next generation” of equal rights advocates. 

The move, announced late last week, comes after SPI's vodka brand Stolichnaya was caught up in a gay boycott of Russian vodka last year, sparked by anti-homosexual legislation in the country. Some US and UK bars stopped selling Stolichnaya because of the protest, which started in July.

SPI late last week said the three-year programme, in partnership with Los Angeles's Gay & Lesbian Centre, will help develop lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transsexual (LGBT) leaders “domestically and around the globe”.

“Through our strategic partnership we hope to harness the power of our global community, cultivating leaders on a local level in the US to create meaningful change throughout the world,” said John Esposito, president of Stoli Group USA.

Throughout the vodka boycott, SPI stressed it was a firm defender of LGBT rights. SPI Group CEO Val Mendeleev wrote an open letter to the global LGBT community criticising the Russian laws, while maintaining that the brand has no connection to the Russian Government.

In an interview with just-drinks last year, SPI's CMO, Marco Ferrari, said that the boycott had “minimal” impact on sales.