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Beyond the Parade: How Pride Sponsors Are Doing More than Sponsorship

Beyond the Parade: How Pride Sponsors Are Doing More than Sponsorship

4 minute read

  • As Pride Parades become increasingly commercialized, it is important for brands to ensure their internal policies are aligned with their marketing efforts.
  • Organizations can show their commitment to LGBTQ causes through internal and external advocacy work, diversity training for employees and legislative lobbying.
  • Brands that lead consistent change build the strongest connection with LGBTQ communities.

In recent years, Pride has faced accusations that it is becoming over-commercialized by the presence of corporate sponsors. Additionally, the property has become a symbol of broader diversity challenges and has been in the middle of a contested political debate about the role of Pride. Due to these challenges and controversies, it has become increasingly important that brands who are present in Pride initiatives are authentic, consistent and supportive in their connection with the LGBTQ community, ensuring their marketing commitments do not get to far out in front of their policies and actions.

In recent years, Pride has become over-commercialized by corporate sponsors and has sparked an increase in political attention. Due to these challenges and controversies, brands must build an authentic, consistent and supportive connection with the LGBTQ community. MKTG leveraged Google Consumer Surveys to ask 1000 Canadians how important it is for sponsors to support LGBTQ causes beyond corporate sponsorship (ie: diversity training, advocacy, equal opportunity hiring, etc.)?

Results show that consumers truly believe that sponsors must do more to support LGBTQ causes if they choose to invest in Pride Parades. TD Bank, Starbucks and Google are a leading example of how Pride Sponsors have evolved beyond corporate sponsorships to demonstrate their commitment to LGBTQ causes. MKTG profiles key learnings from each of these brands.  

1. By supporting internal and external advocacy programs that benefit LGBTQ, brands can exemplify their leading role within the corporate Pride landscape.

Case Study: TD Bank

TD Bank has been a corporate sponsor of Pride across North America for more than thirteen years. Over time, the brand has expanded their sponsorship efforts to support over forty Pride festivals and over one-hundred LGBTQ organizations. This expansion amplifies sponsorship initiatives by providing a year-round fortified connection with the LGBTQ community. As a result, TD Bank is top of mind in the cluttered Pride landscape due to consistent efforts.

TD Bank’s actions are shaped by their mission which is to be the best run, customer-focused, integrated financial institution with a unique and inclusive employee culture. This mission statement allows the brand to organically align with LGBTQ diversity which leads to the creation of advocacy programs such as:

  • LGBTA Internal Employee Pride Network that supports professional and personal development
  • Same-Sex spousal benefits
  • Assistance for sex-reassignment surgery and gender transition

Their commitment to diversity in the workplace and advocacy programs allow TD to expand partnerships outside of “Pride Month” with organizations such a Pride at Work Canada. Pride at Work dedicates efforts to educate and provide thought leadership to companies that allow LGBTQ Canadians to achieve their full potential at work. By partnering with such companies, TD is given a constant platform to achieve their mission while successfully and continually building internal and external relationships with the LGBTQ community through inclusive initiatives.

2. By implementing tactics that act to solve social issues, brands showcase their true value towards the cause.

Case Study: Starbucks

Hate crimes still exist against LGBT individuals, leaving certain parts of the community to feel at-risk. Starbucks, an avid supporter of Pride across America, has decided to take a stance against this issue by launching a courageous local initiative. By partnering with the Seattle Police Department, Starbucks has invested efforts to transform ninety-seven Seattle Starbucks locations into “safe spaces” for LGBTQ victims of violence. In turn, two thousand staff members went through training programs to become well-versed in appropriate responsive techniques.

This effort allowed the Starbucks Pride Alliance, an internal focused program, to create an external tactic that benefits and protects the broader community. The move showcases a brand's true desire and investment to action change in order to solve real social issues that face the LGBTQ.

3. By taking a stance to change government policies, brands show their inherent passion for equalizing rights for the betterment of the LGBTQ community.

Case Study: Google

Throughout the years, the effort for same-sex couples to have the same benefits as heterosexual couples has been a struggle. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed in the United States in 1996 and defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Section Three of DOMA prevented the Federal Government from recognizing marriage between gay and lesbian couples, despite being viewed as legally married by their state. Google joined the 2013 Amicus Brief that supported the repeal of this Section.

As a result of powerful lobbying that was supported by Google, Section Three is now seen as unconstitutional. Same-sex couples can now receive federal protections such as health insurance, Social Security, and retirement savings. Google continues to fight for marriage and LGBTQ equality to this day.

Brands that take part in public decision-making and policy changes can expect the potential business outcome of losing investors and consumers due to political backlash. Despite the risk, Google bravely decided to be transparent with their desire to see equal rights for the LGBTQ community. Google is now seen as a rallying ally more than a traditional corporate sponsor due to this. This is a trailblazing example of a brand that takes a stance by enforcing change through lobbying.


Now that Pride advertising and support for the LGBTQ community from brands are rising, sponsorship of Pride Festivals are no longer enough to constitute authentic support. Once brands look beyond corporate festival sponsorship, they can search and find ways to distinguish themselves with unique external and internal culture initiatives that truly spark change.

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