Pride 2020: LGBT+ titles and sponsors ensure the show goes on, virtually

The Drum 04 Jun 2020 12:30

​The month of June is finally upon us. This time last year, from New York to London, São Paulo to Tel Aviv, the LGBT+ Pride movement was in its stride, with unprecedented numbers of volunteers, artists, and supporters poised to descend on streets, to march in solidarity.

Equally as much a celebration as a protest, 'Gay Christmas' as it's sometimes referred to, is the one time of year where people from all demographics, race, religion, and sexual orientation can come together and celebrate acceptance, peacefully.

Any hope that Pride parades might be exempt from the clutches of coronavirus were dashed in March, when one by one, each parade body took to social media to announce their deepest regrets.

However, it was never the case that Pride 2020 would not take place — it was more a matter of how. 2020 still marks Pride’s golden jubilee. It's been ​50 years since the inaugural pride parade in 1970, and 51 years since the Stonewall Riot, where members of the black LGBT+ community stood up against police brutality and oppression.

“I don't think any of us thought we'd be in this position,” shares Brent Miller, Procter & Gamble (P&G) associate director, global LGBT+ equality - the first to hold the position at the multi-brand conglomerate.

While it’s hard to sugarcoat the disappointment, LGBT+ media brands and Pride organizers have been busy planning throughout lockdown, proving the pandemic to be a welcome shove into the foray of digital festivals.

Condé Nast’s LGBT+ brand Them has also ventured online, programming ‘Out Now Live’ - a programme of virtual events that include performances, speeches, storytelling, as well as messages from prominent members of the LGBT+ community.

“From the day we were sent home, within a week we started noticing essential LGBT+ community spaces shuttering up, compromising their income,” Them’s executive editor Whembley Sewell details of the mag’s rapid response.

Billed as '2020Capsule: A unique year in Pride, documented' - today (4 June) Gay Times has unveiled its plans for Pride 2020. It intends to capture this moment in history by collating a capsule to document the experiences, challenges, unity, and advocacy from this exact moment in time - to share with future generations.

With physical parades out of bounds this year, event organizers have scrambled to host virtual marches in its place.

Yesterday (3 June) alongside its agency Anomaly, it announced this year's theme - #YouMeUsWe - a cry out to all LGBT+ people to support one another and stand in solidarity as a community.

Can online make up for the loss of physical parades?

“In some ways, I’m surprised we haven’t been doing this all along,” she adds, noting that while in previous years, major activations would take place mainly in New York City and Brooklyn, ‘Out Now Live’ is truly global in its reach.

She explains that being digital also means they can have talent from all around the world. Bob the Drag Queen, Vogue UK editor Edward Enninful, Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon, model Naomi Campbell and Whoopi Goldberg, are among the participating talent that will be dialing in from around the world.

“The reach of a global Pride cannot be beaten by local Pride and the opportunity to feel part of a truly global community is on offer for the first time ever,” he states. “It can feel more accessible. Some of the criticism of Pride is a feeling that you have to look a certain way, work for a certain company, be part of a certain class. Digital Prides negate that.”

A trick of the light?

Among major brand blunders over the years, we’ve had the distasteful M&S LGBT+ sandwich, Budweiser's demi-sexual drinking cups, alongside ample helpings of rainbow logo changes, with no houses in order.

In the wake of recent protests following George Floyd's death in US police custody around the globe, 75 LGBT+ groups have united in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, noting shared experiences of harassment and police brutality. Their message? Neither people nor brands can celebrate Pride's 50-year history, without acknowledging that the riot was originally led by people of colour who sought to end police brutality and oppression.

Yet, without the potential to flaunt on an audacious float, analysts have pondered whether sponsors will even be lining up with the same enthusiasm for Pride 2020. And, with 89% of large multinational companies deferring marketing campaigns last month, will brands have any dollars spare this year to throw at Pride?

"As companies restart their engines and the economy jumps back into gear, there is going to be a realignment of all ad spend - that's inevitable," Kenna contends.

"The root of this comes from the tightrope that Pride stands between being a protest and a celebration - the latter being more palatable for brand managers," he argues.

And, while the Paddy Power's float at Brighton Pride has in recent years become an iconic staple of the parade, the betting giant has no concrete plans in place due to the lack of outdoor activities. Though, it promises that when society is up and running safely again, it will begin talks again with its partners Mediacom and The Gay Times.

"However, all hope is not lost on brands still want to engage the LGBT+ community," Kenna continues. "Covid-19 has seen brands look for purpose more than ever - ensuring their comms has actual value beyond 'buy my product."

However, while Cohen was buoyant about bringing Pride online, with or without sponsors, two months down the line and Pink News can boast H&M, Zipcar, GVC and Lelo as this year’s sponsors. PinkNews previous brand partners and Pride sponsors include Amazon, Lloyds, Barclays, Deliveroo, Uber, Citi, Aegon, and LinkedIn.

As part of Them's 2020 Pride efforts, skincare brand Bliss will be participating in the #OurPrideNow campaign that Them. is launching during Pride month.

"We see this as a moment that we need to lean in," insists P&G's Miller. "This is a moment that we need to reaffirm our support and move forward, because the support of the community is so well ingrained in the company. We see it as a continuation of where we've been, and hopefully, the accelerator where we want to go."

"We're working to use our voice, through media and our brands, to raise visibility," Miller explains. "Our voice won't be in a parade this year, but it's important to still bring it forward" confirming that P&G is "working to make sure that we maintain our level of investment in all the Prides around the world that we participate in. It's important that, while a celebration isn't happening, they still receive the support that they have from us."

"While we can’t celebrate in person, we’re bringing people together from across the globe through a #24HoursOfPride campaign," shares Leanne Cutts, HSBC's group chief marketing officer.

"On the ground, as the lead partner of Birmingham Pride, we supported this year’s virtual event and lit up our UK head office in the city with the Pride flag," Cutts continues. "While in Canada, 133 of our branches will be overhauling their window displays to show solidarity throughout June, July, and August."

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So PauloStonewall RiotBrent MillerLondonCond Nast
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