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Brand activations for Pride 2018: The good, the bad and the lazy

Monday July 9, 2018 at 3:38pm

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Alex Lawrence, Copy & Content Executive, IPM

Pride month was celebrated throughout the whole of June and Pride in London took place this weekend which I was pleased to attend. The celebration of the LGBT+ community is approaching ubiquity and brands have become increasingly involved in the Pride movement. From social media to shop fronts, it’s hard to miss the countless representations of the vibrant LGBT+ rainbow flag. Redesigned logos, temporary company name changes and more, the sheer amount of Pride imagery sends out a positive message of acceptance and support.

Consumers, however, are smart. They know when a brand actually cares about the LGBT+ community and is adding value to what Pride stands for, beyond its colourful imagery. Often a simple logo redesign is not enough to convince sceptical consumers that a brand is doing anything to support the cause. This ‘badging’ does neither the brand nor the cause much good in the medium to long term – people quickly see through cynical attempts by brands to align themselves with causes with whom they have no real strategic or cultural connection, while ​causes often get a quick boost of awareness followed by accusations of selling out.

It’s true that representation is important and brands that show an alliance with Pride are those which people are more likely to want to engage with. Yet, it’s essential that brands do more than just use the symbolic Pride flag for their own ​ends as this becomes dangerously close to an act of appropriation. I spoke to someone who took part in the Pride in London parade and asked how she felt about ​this kind of activity: “It’s heart-breaking​. I think a lot of people have been swallowed up by consumerism. A lot of companies are just in it for the money. You can tell which companies have genuine support and which are just doing it to attract more customers and I think it’s disgraceful.”

Exhibit A. Be At One ‘#BeAtOneWithLove’


The cocktail bar chain have released a Pride themed drinks menu and drink offers. Exemplified by the clumsy hashtag, this campaign feels like a last minute attempt to jump on the bandwagon. Be At One makes no indication that any of the profit made from their Pride drinks will be donated to Pride or any LGBT+ charities. Sadly, this campaign appears to see Pride as a big party and nothing more.

Exhibit B. Costa rainbow cups











Costa Coffee have been replacing their signature red cups with limited edition rainbow cups to ‘celebrate’ Pride. Again, Costa will not be donating any profits to LGBT+ charities, nor does their campaign have a meaningful message to do with Pride or LGBT+ efforts. This isn’t celebrating Pride, its profiting from it.

Exhibit C. Coutts Bank ‘#bankwithpride’​










The private bank and wealth manager, Coutts, have decked out their London office with some sleek rainbow decorations. It's unclear the depth to which Coutts will be supporting Pride charities, and besides, does anyone actually 'bank with pride?' The display might look impressive, but there is no pride in profiting from a meaningful cause while offering no actual support.

The IPM's top 10 brand activations for Pride 2018

The best brands, however, are the ones that self-reflect, the ones that look at their own organisational values, practices and beliefs and find a truthful connection to the cause they are associating with. Without finding this truth, brands risk commercialising an incredibly important social movement that has a purpose beyond the rainbows and glitter. Below, we’ve listed our top 10 brand activations for Pride 2018 that stand out by actively doing something to support the LGBT+ community

10. NintendoPride Party with Gaymers iNC.

On Thursday 5th July, Nintendo partnered with London LGBT+ gaming community, Gaymers iNC, to host an evening of gaming in celebration of Pride. With its focus on “LGBT geeks and gamers,” this event stood out because of its strong sense of community. The party offered not only a fun experience, but a space of acceptance where all were welcome, invited to be themselves and make friendships with like-minded people - exactly what Pride is all about.

9. BoohooMAN ‘#LOVEIS’ clothing range

Lots of clothing brands bring out Pride ranges, but this one caught our attention because it goes a little further than incorporating rainbow designs. The whole focus of #LOVEIS is gender neutrality and empowerment. The clothing is not designed for any particular gender and displays messages that encourage love and open mindedness. The brand is also donating 10% of proceeds to LGBT+ charities The Rainbow Fund and Terrence Higgins Trust.

8. YoSushi ‘No Labels. Just Pride.’

Japanese food chain Yo Sushi removed all of the labels from their High Street Kensington restaurant, social media and website. This campaign aims to ditch branding altogether and instead highlight Pride. We think this stands out as a bold step that sends a simple but impactful message of acceptance rather than categorisation.  ​

 7. Fuller’s ‘Pride Loves Pride’

Fuller’s craft beer, London Pride Unfiltered, is now the official beer partner of Pride in London. Instead of targeting stereotypical male beer drinkers, Fuller’s focus on Pride is a breath of fresh air. The campaign features messages such as “You won’t catch us coming out for a day. We’re London Pride 365 days a year.” This not only refers to the fact the beer shares its name with the Pride event, but also establishes the brand as one that is always in celebration of the LGBT+ community and not just when it’s in the news.

6. Absolut digital Pride buses

The alcohol brand have wrapped two iconic red London buses in rainbow print. These buses don’t just brighten up the streets, they allow passengers to donate to LGBT+ charity Stonewall by simply tapping their smartphones onto the back of seats. Absolut’s support of the LGBTQ community dates way back to the 1980s and have produced iconic advertisements showing that they are not ones to just jump on the bandwagon.

5. Historic Royal Palaces ‘Pride, Power and Politics LGBT+ tour’

Running from 5th to 15th July, this is a different kind of event that explores LGBT+ stories and figures from history. In a guided night tour of the Tower of London, attendees will learn about how gender and sexuality were treated in the past and how they have evolved. The dark past seems a far cry from the vibrant celebrations of Pride, but we think this activation is informative and important.​

4. Skittles ‘Give the Rainbow’


Skittles is rerunning its successful campaign from last year which sees the household confectionery brand known for its rainbow coloured design and slogan “Taste the rainbow,” has shed its usual colours and gone black and white. Like Yo Sushi, this stands out by doing the exact opposite of what the majority of brands are doing with their logos during Pride. Moreover, the thought behind the campaign is mature and respectful: “This Pride only one rainbow matters. So we’ve given ours up.” Each pack of colourless Skittles will raise money for Switchboard, the LGBT+ Helpline.

3. EverymanCinema ‘Summer Love Film Festival’

In collaboration with Pride in London and Gay Times, the Cinema chain is offering free open air screenings of movies on the banks of Regent Canal for its Summer Love Film Festival. Alongside mainstream blockbusters such as La La Land, the Festival will also include screenings of critically acclaimed films that represent LGBT+ struggle. This activation is inclusive and offers something for everyone, as well as forefronting LGBT+ issues and representing the cause with films like Moonlight, and BPM.​

2. Amazon Music Pride playlists


Amazon Music are the official music partners of this year’s Pride in London, providing 12 Pride playlists including the Official Pride in London playlist on its streaming platform. The playlists are created to represent and celebrate different areas of the LGBT+ community with titles including: “Black, Gay & Proud,” “Fluid Generation,” “Drag Queen Anthems,” “Coming out in the 90s” and more. The playlists tap into the empowerment music can often bring, featuring LGBT+ icons, artists and anthems. The array of different songs, genres and artists shows that Amazon Music recognises that Pride is about diversity and aims to reach out and connect with the LGBT+ community through meaningfully selected music. Amazon also had a strong presence at Pride on Saturday, marching with glamazon, Amazon’s own employee LGBT+ network.

1. Paddy Power ‘From Russia, with Equal Love’

For their Pride activation, Paddy Power stated that they would donate £10,000 to LGBT+ charities every time the Russian football team score in the World Cup. The campaign focuses on both Russia’s problems with homophobia, which is now on the rise, particularly in football. The ironic and tongue-in-cheek premise is to make Russia an “accidental ally” by directly funding a campaign that seeks to stop LGBT+ prejudice, support footballers in coming out, fund educational programmes and make safe spaces for LGBT+ players.

Pride is about celebration, yes, but it also has important political relevance. As Paddy Power have highlighted, Pride is about overcoming ongoing issues affecting LGBT+ people, not just about rainbows and parades. Instead of taking the easy option and focusing on the glitz and glamour of pride, Paddy Power refuses to shy away from the very real and hard-hitting facts of how the LGBT+ community are being treated. Yet Paddy Power’s campaign is also cheeky and light-hearted, aiming to “wind up a few gammon-headed Russian homophobes” and make a real difference.  

In the news recently, Mastercard faced heavy criticism for their disastrous Latin America campaign which claimed the company would donate 10,000 meals to children but only when football stars Lionel Messi or Neymar Jr score. While this appeared to gamify hunger and read as a poor effort to appear charitable, Paddy Power has ensured their campaign will not replicate Mastercard’s mistake and have stated that they will donate a minimum of £50,000 even if Russia failed to score. Luckily Russia scored a total of 11 goals, which means Paddy Power will be donating £110,000.

Brands that showed a real presence at Pride in London

After attending Pride and experiencing the incredible atmosphere and welcoming environment myself, I came away feeling more positive about brands and Pride. Overshadowing those that make lazy attempts to connect with the LGBT+ community, there were many brands who showed genuine support. Some of my favourite parade floats are listed below.

Delta / Virgin Atlantic








And finally, I'll end with O2 who, according to an employee I spoke to, are dedicated to the LGBT+ community all the time and not just when Pride comes to town.










Update: the importance of standing up to brands that exploit Pride
For Pride, Marmite released limited edition Rainbow jars and stated they would donate 25p to Stonewall for each jar sold. However the small print stated that they would cap the donations at a mere £5,000 (not much for the household name brand). After a petition was raised to stop this campaign, Marmite agreed to lift the £5,000 cap and donate more. 

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