Pride, Parade and Corporate Sponsorship. Should brands be doing more?

 Image source:  The Mirror

Image source: The Mirror

On Saturday 8th July, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in celebration of Pride London, the annual event reflecting the diversity of the LGBTQI community in our nation’s capital. What began in 1972 as a political protest for gay rights, the pride parade has grown in size and visibility year on year.

And while this growth in visibility and representation for the LGBTQI community is something to be lauded, Pride London has come in for criticism from some corners for the increasingly commercialised nature of the event; what started as a primarily political protest has come to feel more like a parade of rainbow-tinted big brands.

As the event has grown in size and complexity, the need for corporate sponsors is clear – organising, running and ensuring the security of such a large event does not come cheap, and the money has to come from somewhere. But how much are these brands truly doing for LGBTQI rights?

Critics have claimed that big brands have increasingly been taking pride of place in the parade, above groups who have been fighting for the rights of these marginalised communities for years. One only has to look at the list of sponsors on Pride London’s website to see the different tiers of sponsorship (and visibility at the event) afforded based on the size of a company’s financial contribution.

The main criticism of this state of affairs is that these brands are doing very little outside of the Pride festival to actively support LGBTQI people, and are simply attempting to attract the ‘pink pound’.

While there is perhaps some truth in this – for example, exactly what the film Despicable Me 3 has been doing for gay rights I am not sure - many of the brands sponsoring the event have large and active internal organisations for their LGBTQI employees - Omnicom’s employee engagement network’s own LGBT organisation, Open Pride, recently launched in the UK after a successful rollout in the US, and had a presence at this year’s parade – and sponsorship of Pride London is another way of demonstrating its dedication to celebrating the diversity of both their employees and their customers.

And for those brands not known to do as much to support the LGBTQI community outside of pride, is the sponsorship of the event in and of itself not significant? In doing so they are taking a stand, coming out in support of a community and helping them hold an event that celebrates their right to live, love, and be happy. Of course they could be doing more, but then again, couldn’t we all?

Max Durston, Flamingo