Sponsorship of gay pride parades on the rise

Companies are finding the benefits of sponsorship outweigh the risks of staying away
Associated Press
Jun 28, 2014

In between muscular men in speedos gyrating to thumping dance music and drag queens decked out in formal gowns, Salt Lake City's gay pride parade also featured a few, more conventional participants: Some of America's most well-known companies.

From Starbucks to eBay to Macy's, the increasing visibility of corporations at the parade in Utah and at others across the country in recent years comes as same-sex marriage bans fall in the courts and polls show greater public acceptance of gay marriage.

In that climate, companies are finding that the benefits of sponsorship outweigh the risks of staying away, giving them a chance to make a statement in support of diversity and use it to help recruit and retain top talent who want to work for a business that supports LGBT rights.

"We understand there are people who might have different points of view on that," said spokesman Michael Palese at Chrysler, which has been a sponsor of the Motor City Pride Festival and Parade in Detroit, Michigan, for years and became a primary backer this spring.

"We respect their point of view as long as they respect ours," Palese said.

This weekend, some of the largest gay pride events are scheduled, including ones in New York, San Francisco and Chicago. They come just days after a federal appeals court ruled for the first time that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

At many companies, support for pride parades and festivals is being fueled by internal Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender councils who are given small budgets and freedom to spend that money where they choose.

The continued transformation of the parades from small, defiant, sexually daring protests to family-friendly, mainstream celebrations has been on full display this summer as new companies join businesses that have been supporting the cause for years.

In Salt Lake City, American Express workers carried giant letters that spelled, "Love=Love," the theme of the parade. JPMorgan Chase marchers wore T-shirts that said, "just be you." A Budweiser's semi-truck festooned with rainbow flags drove slowly through the parade, honking its horns.

At the 43rd Motor City Pride Festival in Detroit, banners were adorned with corporate logos, including those of General Motors, Ford, Comerica bank, Kroger and Whole Foods Market. Delta Air Lines employees handed out day packs, luggage tags and the same cookies that passengers get.

"They're recognizing that there's a loyal, reliable customer base," said Gregory Varnum of Equality Michigan, a group leading the fight for same-sex marriage rights in the state. "Advertising to the LGBT community is working. They wouldn't keep coming if it wasn't working."

The purchasing power of the U.S. gay and lesbian population was estimated to be $830 billion last year, up from $610 billion in 2005, according to a study by Witeck-Combs Communications, a marketing firm specializing in the gay marketplace.

Some years ago, Ford resisted a pushback from the American Family Association against its support of gay groups, Varnum said.

There have been no reports of organized boycotts against companies. Overstock.com, which was a first-time sponsor with a float in the Utah parade this year, has seen a bit of criticism in Facebook posts but no coordinated boycott, said Stormy Simon, the company president.

"It was important for us to show the support in the civil rights movement that every person is equal," Simon said.

The number of corporate sponsors and cash donations has doubled in the last seven years for the Utah festival. This year, cash donations reached $97,300, with much of that coming from 36 corporate donors, said Jen Parsons Soran, sponsorship director for the Utah Pride Festival.

In Boston, more businesses sponsor each year, leading to $143,000 in cash donations this year, a rise over recent years, but still less than the $186,000 in 2004, when there were fewer sponsors but larger donations, said Sylvain Bruni of Boston Pride, a group that organizes the parade.

TD Bank has been sponsoring gay pride parades and festivals in various cities since 2009. The company said it spends nearly $1 million annually on LGBT events and initiatives in the U.S. and Canada. This year, the company is sponsoring 20 gay pride parades.

"Having corporate sponsors out there at the forefront and seeing them provides greater opportunity and visibility to get the message out that it's OK to be gay," said Robert Pompey, a senior vice president and co-chair of TD Bank's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Allies panel.

Wal-Mart is joining in, too, sponsoring the New York parade — a decision made by stores in New Jersey, said spokesman Randy Hargrove.

The uptick in support comes as corporations increasingly display their backing for gay rights on social media and in ad campaigns.

Marriott International put pictures of well-known LGBT spokespeople wrapped around hotels in its #LoveTravels campaign. Macy's is selling T-shirts, hats and accessories with the slogan, "I stand on the right side of history" with sales going to help make gay marriage legal.

Some long-time festival-goers have bristled at how mainstream and corporate the parades have become, but Nick Morris of Utah said he welcomed them because the corporations are showing acceptance of the gay community.

"We need to be open and willing to accept them as they've accepted us," he said.

Comments

thinkagain

Homosexuals parading in the street…just a sign of a pathetic, godless society.

44846GWP

The local bigot speaks.

Truth2u

44846GWP, by your post its evident that its you who are the bigot. A bigot is one who is intolerant towards those who hold different opinions from oneself. Society since the founding of this nation has always condemned sodomy and there are still laws on the books condemning it as being unnatural. So, you, the minority on the topic are the one who hold different opinions than those of the majority. Whats next for you, calling everyone 'racist' or 'discriminating', as if and act of immorality has something to do with racism or discrimination? Speaking out against an immoral act and its decay on society is not bigotry, its common sense and protection for society.

bnjjad

Majority? Nice try. Latest Gallup poles show the majority have no problems with gays or gay marriage.

As for the laws on the books. There are a lot of pointless laws on the books still from a time that is long past and are no longer relevant.

Decay on society? How do you figure gays are decaying society?

As for immorality: that is your view. Not everyone's. My morals accept that lifestyle and support it if it makes them happy.

freethinker1

Truth2: Pointing out someone ELSE'S bigotry does not make 44846 a bigot. We ALL should condemn intolerance, especially when someone uses the Bible as an excuse for discrimination.

You could use some education on the subject, for many of the things you said are outdated and incorrect. Being gay is not immoral, and with more than 50% of heterosexual marriages ending in divorce, we can't exactly claim any moral high ground. I urge you to watch the documentary on California Proposition 8, currently playing on HBO. All of the old anti-gay assumptions were dismantled one by one, by scientific experts.

Dr. Information

Science and being gay has no correlation whatsoever. Myth.
I don't agree with the entire gay thing, I believe its a choice, and I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Now go on and bash me because I do not think and believe like you liberals.

ladydye_5

Lesbians usually have nothing to do with sodomy. I love how all the "anti-gay" rhetoric always are complaining about gay men. Do they not see lesbians in the same light? And just to make a point, there are heterosexual couples that sometimes do engage in sodomy. Personally I do not go in other peoples bedrooms, I do not care what they do. I just like for others to stay out of mine. But I do like to stir the pot and point out a few things that it seems some might be missing.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

You may enjoy this, then, ladydye. There's a few f-bombs and adult references in it (NSFW, boys and girls) that are contextually related to the topic, but otherwise it is humorous and perhaps pot-stirring fodder for you. Submitted in open-minded humor:

The Professor Brothers - Sodom & Gomorrah
http://youtu.be/bar3GOzDNzg

ladydye_5

That is friggin HILARIOUS!!! I bet thinkagain would love that. They explain that so well. Do they teach the whole bible? Verse by verse? LOL

Erie County Resident

They don't want seperate or different treatment but do everything they can to prove they are different.
They get what they want so what do they expect?
Not bashing just stating fact.

Tsu Dho Nimh

+1

jazzbo

Yeah , the concept of parading down the street telling everyone that you're a homosexual is wacky.

Dr. Information

+100. When you have to parade around (lifestyle, money...etc), there is a deeper motivation.

Why not just live and let live and not parade around. I blame the media 100%. If normal married men and women held a parade in honor of traditional marriage, they would be crucified on and in every media outlet for being intolerant.

YoMamma

I want a straight parade!

bnjjad

Organize it!

freespeech1

You cant have a straight parade, that would be intolerant. Instead we have to suffer with a freak parade that borderlines obscene. Go to youtube and look at these pride parades, freaking nasty.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

This is an interesting phenomenon to watch play out.

swiss cheese kat

A bigot is one who is intolerant towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.

Why do Gays feel the need to force everyone to accept their lifestyle? Believe it or not, some cultures actually still act on their religious beliefs.