Coca-Cola supports marriage equality with rainbow billboard and cans as brands shy away from SSM debate

Coca-Cola has added rainbow lights to its iconic Sydney billboard and launched 'Love' Coke cans in support of marriage equality, ahead of Australia’s same-sex marriage vote.

Coke’s Kings Cross billboard, which has been a permanent fixture in Sydney for more than 40 years, has swapped out its white lights for a rainbow light display as part of the brand’s support for inclusion and equality. The adjacent billboard has also received a makeover to reflect the company's stance and it will release a limited run of Coke cans featuring the word 'love' and a rainbow design.

In a statement, Coca-Cola said the moves aimed to reflect the brand's commitment to equality.

“Coca-Cola believes in the power of bringing people together. Whether it was the struggle for human rights in the United States in the 1960’s to a group of young people from many nations on a hilltop in Italy in 1971, around the world we’ve always stood up for diversity, inclusion and equality.

“We proudly strive for these qualities in our own business and support these rights for all in society. Every person has the right to happiness, so we believe it’s time for a change in Australia. No matter who you are or who you love, all couples should be treated equally.

“We understand that not everyone will agree with our stance and we respect people’s right to hold a different view. We hope they’ll respect our right to support our staff, their family and friends, and our customers and consumers so that all can share the simple happiness of being together."

Coca-Cola is one of a small number of brands to make a public display of support for marriage equality in the lead up to Australia's public vote.

In April, Airbnb launched a campaign Until We All Belong, which called on the public to pledge support for marriage equality by wearing a ring designed by Marc Newsom. The campaign was supported by some of Australia’s biggest brands including Qantas, ANZ, Google and eBay.

At the time, Airbnb claimed it was the most public corporate declaration for marriage equality in Australia and it came weeks after the chief executives of the country’s largest companies, including Qantas, Carnival and SBS signed a letter to the Australian Prime Minister calling for action.

However, while Australia’s biggest brands have pledged support for marriage equality, most have opted against public displays of support in the lead up to the public vote. Major brands including Telstra, Optus, Holden and Deloitte have all stated they will not support the ‘Yes’ campaign with advertising.

This week Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce personally donated $1 million to the 'Yes' campaign, the contribution is reportedly the largest individual donation the campaign has received to date. Joyce, who has been a vocal supporter of marriage equality, has urged Corporate Australia to follow his lead with public support.

Australians have until the November 7 to submit a postal vote on same-sex marriage, the results of which may be used by the government to determine whether it will vote to legalise gay marriage.

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Danielle Long

Danielle Long is APAC Correspondent for The Drum with a remit to cover news from China, Australia and New Zealand. Danielle has 15 years experience as a marketing journalist and has worked on publications in the UK and Australia. She has interviewed some of the world’s leading marketing, advertising and creative brains and has written about almost every standout brand and marketing campaign from the last 15 years.

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