Brands maintain support for Pride despite anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment

The news: Corporate support for Pride Month events has been solid this year despite some highly visible strong opposition to pro-LGBTQ+ marketing strategies.

  • Nearly 78% of US Pride organizers surveyed this year by InterPride, a worldwide network of Pride events, said their corporate sponsorships either rose or held steady since last year, while 22% reported declines, per NBC News.
  • Retailer Kohl’s announced a Pride merchandise selection that includes tops, throws, and more items, and said it was again donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, which advises LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Delta Air Lines kicked off the month by unveiling its first-ever Pride exhibit at its Flight Museum in Atlanta.
  • Levi’s unveiled its lavender 2023 Pride collection featuring non-binary clothing with empowering motifs, and announced an annual $100,000 donation to Outright International for LGBTQ+ rights.

LGBTQ+ community targeted: During a year that has seen diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives come under general assault, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment also picked up. The Human Rights Campaign advocacy group declared a state of emergency for US LGBTQ+ people this month, citing more than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that were signed into law in 2023.

Hard hits: Many companies that showed support for the LGBTQ+ community were attacked, but perhaps none fared as badly this year as Bud Light, which learned the hard way that backtracking on important social issues doesn’t inspire consumer confidence.

  • The company’s sales fell sharply when it irked conservative-leaning consumers who decried its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney as well as progressives who felt the beer maker didn’t offer enough support in the face of that backlash.
  • Adidas faced social media opposition for its Pride 2023 swimwear collection, where a seemingly male model advertised a one-piece bathing suit, prompting critics to suggest the brand should have labeled it as unisex or marketed it as a LGBTQ+ offering.

Our take: As the LGBTQ+ community grows—especially among the critical Gen Z cohort—so does its purchasing power. Based on 2021 Census data, the LGBTQ+ community has $1.4 trillion in spending power, per a 2022 report from The Pride Co-op, a market research firm. Despite rising anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, brands can ill afford to ignore this vital constituency.

  • Brands that engage in pride marketing need to stand by it, lest they experience Bud Light’s fate and lose consumers on both sides of the issue.