Pride celebrations and corporate branding - Activate World

Pride celebrations and corporate branding

Critics of New York City’s WorldPride Festival and its June 30 Pride March say the event has evolved from a political protest into a bloated parade, overrun with corporate sponsors. An alternative Queer Liberation March will take place on the same day and be modeled on the first gay rights parade that came the year after the Stonewall riots, the seminal moment in the modern gay rights movement. 

Lunchtime Conversations:

  • How can companies move beyond low-effort shows of support for the LGBTQ community and take real action with tangible results for the myriad issues that affect different cross sections of LGBTQ people? 
  • What is the best balance for a business leader in showing public support for LGBTQ rights and delivering effective diversity and inclusion within a company?
  • How can business leaders address LGBTQ causes such as ending workplace discrimination, receiving equal access to healthcare, serving openly in the military, and protecting the lives of transgender women of color?


  • Gilead, a pharmaceutical company, publicly supports LGBTQ rights at New York City’s LGBTQ celebrations every year, but in practice, it has not adequately served LGBTQ people who run the highest risk of contracting AIDS, a disease its drug could help prevent.
  • In 2016 Los Angeles pride was referred to as “gay Coachella” — and last year, Los Angeles Pride organizers got into trouble for over-selling tickets to the festival and had to turn hundreds of paying celebrants away.
  • Some companies who are promoting LGBTQ Pride — and ostensibly cashing in on Pride merchandise or retail — aren’t doing much for the LGBTQ community beyond contributing to this vague notion of “awareness” around the issues that affect that community.


The Stonewall Riots took place during the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969. The queer community of New York City was tired of the blatant harassment and discrimination perpetrated against them by NYC police officers, so during one summer’s raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the heart of Greenwich Village, the community fought back. 

Historically, Pride Month, pride celebrations, and pride marches are how LGBTQ people and supporters address the ongoing work for acceptance and equality. However, there is a clash of values between those who believe the New York City Pride March no longer speaks to the urgent needs of the LGBTQ community but reflects corporate branding and the status quo. 

Bill Dobbs of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, organizers of the alternative march, calls the Pride March an advertising showcase for floats sponsored by major corporations like Wells Fargo and T-Mobile that distract from the message of Stonewall. He says, “You can’t talk about economic justice when you have Fortune 500 companies marching in your parade.” Critics argue that with gay rights under threat, the march should be a more sober protest, rather than a flashy show. 

But Pride March officials say corporate revenue was crucial to providing supplies, equipment rentals, insurance, security and other aspects for the costly march and related events. It also takes the financial burden off advocacy groups and community nonprofits with tight budgets, said Cathy Renna, a spokeswoman for Heritage of Pride, organizers of the Pride March since 1984. She called the march’s popularity among corporate sponsors a positive sign of how far the gay community has come in achieving mainstream acceptance.

Sources: The New York TimesRolling StoneVox

Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash