How LGBTQ Pride Became A Corporate Marketing Opportunity

Pride for Profit: Pride month becomes a branded holiday

Andy Lau, MBA
Jun 16 · 4 min read
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Photo by Yoav Hornung on Unsplash

Celebrated every June, Pride month pays tribute to those involved in the Stonewall Riots. From celebrations to marches, Pride promotes self-affirmation, equality, and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, and queer folks. During this month, LGBTQ people and allies address the ongoing work for acceptance and equality.

As adoption for LGBTQ rights continue to grow across the globe, the corporate incentive for brands and companies to participate also increases. Brands and companies position themselves as allies, but also found ways to profit off the commercialization of Pride month. In the past few years, some members of the LGBTQ community feel that Pride events have focused too much on sponsorships and not enough on LGBTQ rights.

David Paisley, senior research director of Community Marketing Incorporated states that “for the most part, you would see corporations producing gay-specific ads and placing it in gay-specific media” (U.S. News). This brings into question what Pride month really means, what it represents, and why we really celebrate it.

Marketing during Pride not only means new business but also repeat customers, as LGBTQ members are loyal supporters of brands and corporations that align with their values. Many businesses claim that sales skyrocket in June due to Pride month.

Below are examples of corporations who utilized Pride Month as a way to market their products and capitalize on the LGBTQ community and allies.

Wells Fargo

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Photo from Washington Blade

For the past 25 years, Wells Fargo proudly marched in various Pride parades across the United States. Mark Ng, LGBTQ segment manager at Wells Fargo, states that sponsoring Pride most certainly draws new customers to Wells Fargo: “Consumers are just as interested in a company’s values as they are with our company’s products and services” (U.S. News).

Participating in the Pride events allows Wells Fargo to market and get their name out. It also shows the company’s support for LGBTQ allies. Recently, LGBTQ consumers demanded to see more of themselves represented in marketing and advertising. Corporations profiting from Pride remains a largely debated topic, one with both supporters and opposers.

Adidas

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Screenshot from Adidias Website — Pride Collection 2020

Adidas takes Pride to another level with its Pride Collection 2020. The company created a line of products targeted specifically toward LGBTQ members and supporters. Shoes, hats, shorts, t-shirts, and other types of apparel embroider the Pride colors and symbol. This not only raises awareness for the cause and brand, but also aligns the company with LGBTQ allies.

As support for LGBTQ rights grows, it makes sense for corporations and brands to position themselves with the growing sentiment. However, it becomes questionable when companies like Adidas to sell rainbow merchandise to support Pride month. Is the company putting the best interests of LGBTQ members first or their own profits? Is it ethical for companies to use Pride symbols to market and sell their products?

Skyy Vodka

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Photo from Digital Strategy Consulting

In 2018, Skyy Vodka along with many other brands sponsored the New York City Pride Island Celebration. Skyy sold cabana packages for $3,000 to guests. The hefty price tag makes many people question where the true motivations of the company lie.

Mindshare USA, a global media agency network debuted an LGBTQ friendly ad marketplace.

“Brands will be able to support LGBTQ publications and content by buying ads through the private marketplace, which aggregates relevant publisher” — Marketingdive.com

Skyy Vodka was one of the first brands to jump on this technology. This can be seen as both positive and negative as many question the company's intentions. The brand jumped in support of LGBTQ voices. However, Skyy’s marketing and advertising will also appear in front of LGBTQ content.

Final Thoughts:

The U.S. LGBTQ market is worth an estimated $917 billion annually to businesses. From sponsorships to merchandise, there is a lot at stake for corporations and brands. Utilizing Pride month as a marketing tactic has both been supported and criticized.

Zoominfo shares the Do’s and Don’ts to ensure brands and corporations have the right intentions summarized below.

Do:

  • Get employee input during the planning process
  • Educate employees and customers on LGBTQ history and the origins of Pride month
  • Prioritize support for LGBTQ employees and initiatives year-round
  • Put your money and time where your mouth is
  • Be inclusive and authentic in all marketing and advertising efforts
  • Be 100% transparent with the company’s intentions

Don’t:

  • Exploit social initiatives and conversations to reach business goals
  • Execute LGBTQ marketing campaigns for the sole purpose of monetary gain
  • Leverage Pride month or LGBTQ community to segment out your audience for marketing purposes
  • Rely on outdated stereotypes or safe tropes to appear inclusive
  • Use vague language or show half-support
  • Drop LGBTQ support once June is over
  • Assume LGBTQ members don’t face adversity once Pride month ends

Brands participating in Pride month should focus on raising awareness for the cause, not on profits. The actions corporations and brands take to improve LGBTQ rights will reveal where their true motives lie.

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