Are big corporations ruining Pride and everything it stands for?
Polls are starting to lean towards yes.
“Pride collections are inherently good for business, and so is strutting down Regent Street in a double-decker, emblazoned with rainbow-coloured brand logos and cheap merch.”
Pride marches have been happening all around the UK. London, Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester…the list goes on. But there seems to be a recurring theme to these marches that isn’t always discussed – possibly for risk of backlash. More and more (particularly older) LGBT groups and individuals are dropping from the radar. And a large percentage of groups on the marches are big corporations. Banks, restaurants, big brands. All seemingly jumping on the bandwagon in an attempt to parade their inclusivity and support for an ever-increasing, widespread community that has previously been disregarded by brands and individuals alike.
The commercial success of Pride means that the biggest sponsors are almost always large corporations. Standing in the street, you’ll see small groups of allies, charities and LGBT+ organisations and groups pass by, sparsely littered between huge floats sponsored by brands desperate to get their heels into a group of consumers that they know are worth financially investing in.
The political background of Pride seems to be disappearing along with those who marched at the very beginning, when the event had more ties to political protest and activism. With wider acceptance and a larger community, the carnival-type celebration started to develop. It’s only in relatively recent years that it has been thought of as a widespread opportunity for commercial success, turning the event’s purpose and target audience on its head. Change is necessary and positive, but the history of Pride and its marches needs to be remembered.
Recently, some members of the community have backed out from attending the Pride marches across the United Kingdom, with many failing to explain why beyond claiming that Pride had changed direction and no longer stood for what it once had.
One individual who attended Pride 2017 said that it is starting to begin to feel like a ‘big advertisement targeting the LGBT community’, with this opinion being mirrored across the board.
While the vast amount of sponsorships and support heightens the visibility of the LGBT community and perhaps promotes diversity, there is a high risk of many companies understanding the importance of good publicity, and failing to offer support for staff and in the workplace for the other 364 days of the year.
This idea has been brought to attention by the BBC. Polly Shute, director of development and partnerships for Pride in London talked about companies’ involvement:
“From their point of view, it is a message both internally and externally. […] [Some] don’t have a product to sell, but they support us because they want to promote inclusion in the workplace. Of course, it also shows external customers that a business supports the cause, but a number of these companies are already involved in charities promoting inclusion and equality, so it is a natural step”.
While it is important to ensure that Pride is mainstream – confirming that the community is no longer an oppressed minority or a fetishised group, I believe there’s a fine line between necessary vocal support by all and overtaking by companies who it would be too naive to think were participating without money-fuelled intentions. Pride collections are inherently good for business, and so is peacocking down Regent Street on a rainbow coloured double-decker, emblazoned with brand logos and cheap merch.
Sponsorships help Pride grow and develop, offering different opportunities to a community that needs that time to celebrate, socialise and express themselves. The importance lies in ensuring that Pride isn’t entirely overwhelmed by companies, and that individuals, politically active groups and minorities are given the same chance and attention that they always have. There needs to be a balance, and right now, the scale seems to be tipping in the wrong direction.
Opportunities are only going to grow as Pride does, and as long as the community and the companies start to work together for the right reasons – it should just keep getting better.