Brands are being encouraged to stand by their Pride campaigns this month, after some US companies responded to backlash by removing or modifying inclusive campaigns.
Outvertising, an advocacy-group for LGBTQ+ inclusion in marketing and advertising, has called on brands to continue with their campaigns despite the potential for complaints.
Signed by 64 organisations, including the WFA, ISBA, Advertising Association, The Marketing Society and Ogilvy, the statement calls on brands to continue with any planned Pride campaigns, while recommending best practice in response to any counteraction.
Outvertising asks brands to “stand your ground” in response to backlash including by: running Pride ads, protecting LGBTQ+ talent, keeping Pride events running, displaying Pride products and backing up their rainbow logos with “meaningful actions”.
The group also asked brands with media spend to consider investing in media that match their brand values, rather than those that “spread disinformation”.
The statement says: “There’s no room for performative gestures or empty commitments in 2023: love is love, but money talks.”
Marty Davies, joint-CEO of Outvertising, commented: “Our community urgently needs brands to deliver on their promises of allyship. Anti-LGBTQIA+ groups want to see our community erased from the media, including in our advertising. Our industry is being tested. Advertisers need to show courage and run their Pride campaigns. Politicians have given ground. The media has given ground. We can’t afford for businesses to give ground too.”
The statement comes after a number of US brands have come under pressure over inclusive campaigns in recent months.
Earlier this year, Bud Light was the subject of protests following a partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The Anheuser-Busch brand sent personalised beer cans to the influencer, which she then shared on social media. While Bud Light has a history of supporting LGBTQ+ causes, even selling its beer in rainbow bottles in 2019 and 2022, the posts trigged a backlash.
Data from Goldman Sachs suggests that sales of Bud Light in the four weeks that followed the partnership were down by 10% compared to the same weeks in 2022, despite most competitors seeing an increase in sales in the same period.
In response, Anheuser-Busch’s CEO Brendan Whitworth issued a statement stating that the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people”. However, it has also since announced a $200,000 donation to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce in the US.
Last month retailer Target removed some items from its Pride Collection after threats to its staff in some stores. In a statement, it said: “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the centre of the most significant confrontational behaviour.”
Despite these recent cases, Outvertising has highlighted research that shows that supporting Pride can be a positive step for brands.
Research from Portland conducted earlier this year found that two-thirds of people under 60 living in the UK believe that it is important to fight discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Deloitte’s 2020 Open For Business report found that more inclusive companies had higher levels of innovation and creativity – as well as greater brand appeal and customer loyalty – with consumers looking for socially responsible brands.
In the US, a study conducted by LGBT rights campaign group Glaad reported that consumers are twice as likely to buy from brands that publicly support and demonstrate a commitment to protecting LGBTQ+ rights.