While reflecting on Pride Month, we’re taking a deep dive into LGBTQ+ campaigns to distinguish between companies that are authentically showing support and those that are jumping on the bandwagon. We’ve identified a few key takeaways as we analyze the best Pride activations and those that missed the mark.
Ever since the first New York City Pride March was held in 1970 to commemorate the anniversary of the historic Stonewall Uprising, Pride Month has served as a celebration of progress and a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ+ community. As society has made strides toward social awareness and progressive legislation, businesses across the globe have shown up in support. However, just as corporate sustainability campaigns have been perpetrators of “greenwashing” — posturing as more environmentally progressive than they actually are — “rainbow washing” has become just as widespread across Pride campaigns.
While using your business’ platform to support Pride is inherently positive, the motivation needs to come from a place of genuine allyship. We’ve identified three key guidelines that are important to keep in mind for brands traveling down the rainbow rabbit hole.
1. True pride never panders
It’s no secret that Pride is politically charged, and brands often face unfortunate (yet sometimes inevitable) backlash from certain audience segments when they make a public statement or release a product line in support of the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Target faced calls for boycott and customer backlash due to its latest pro-Pride merchandise, resulting in the retailer ultimately removing the products. In response, other audiences and advocacy groups criticized Target for caving to pressure and failing to fully commit.
While Pride campaigns often run the risk of alienating certain audience segments, these instances go to show that backpedaling to appease upset consumers ultimately backfires. Companies need to carefully consider their approach and understand that while some might not support their point of view, changing their tune to satisfy certain groups can be a major detriment to building brand affinity and consumer trust across the board.
2. Illuminate the blind spots
One of the most common criticisms of Pride campaigns has to do with their overall thoughtlessness — using rainbow colors on packaging or products alongside uninspiring messaging. To create a truly impactful campaign, dig deeper by using your platform to shine a light on specific issues at the heart of the LGBTQ+ community.
The hit mobile game Subway Surfers, for example, used Pride Month to spotlight commonly underrepresented groups within the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Subway Surfers introduced their first non-binary character, along with a playable, Pride-themed New York City game map decorated with various flags for LGBTQIA+ communities that are often underrepresented in Pride campaigns, including the asexual and nonbinary communities. Concurrently, Subway Surfers partnered with the It Gets Better Project to create a platform for LGBTQIA+ players and employees to tell their personal stories via social media, inspiring hope and belonging to Subway Surfers’ 7.8 million TikTok followers.
3. Leverage the community
The communications architects behind Pride campaigns have a responsibility to involve the community, which might look like spotlighting the LGBTQ+ voices of customers and employees or utilizing them for focus groups and market research.
In 2021, Chevrolet launched their first Authentic Voices of Pride series in collaboration with LGBTQ Nation. The series consisted of deep-dive editorials plus documentary-style interviews with celebrities, influencers, and everyday people from the LGBTQ+ community to share their stories and experiences in relation to the community’s most important issues, like the challenges queer couples face when trying to adopt children in conservative states.
While Pride campaigns can be tricky territory for businesses to navigate, the common thread throughout these lessons is the importance of ensuring that messaging comes from an authentic place of allyship. To truly resonate, a brand’s campaign must dig beyond contrived, “fluff marketing” and demonstrate that they’re listening and engaging with the issues that matter most to the communities in the thick of it.
If you’ve visited Vegas over the past few years, you may have wondered what the giant dome-shaped structure is sitting next to the Venetian. Opening in September with a series of U2 concerts, the Sphere venue – created by Sphere Entertainment Co. (recent spin-off of Madison Square Garden Entertainment) – will forever disrupt live entertainment, representing major technological breakthroughs the industry hasn’t seen in decades.
In early June, Sphere Entertainment announced Sphere Studios in Burbank, where a team of creative, production, technology, and software experts provide full in-house creative and production services. That includes Big Dome, a 28,000-square-foot, 100-foot-high custom geodesic dome with a quarter-sized version of the screen at Sphere in Las Vegas. The studio additionally unveiled Big Sky, an innovative new camera system developed internally that sets a never-before-seen bar for cinematic cameras, unlocking a new realm of possibility for audience experience at Sphere.
Postcard From Earth, directed by Academy Award-nominee Darren Aronofsky, debuts October 6 and is the first Sphere Experience to harness the full array of Sphere’s technological capabilities. The film is currently in production, with crews traveling the world to film scenes with Big Sky camera systems.
On July 4th, Sphere’s fully-programmable exterior – the world’s largest LED screen – was entirely illuminated for the first time, showcasing fireworks, stars and stripes animations, a galaxy scene with a soaring spaceship, and more. A signature feature of Sphere, the Exosphere will continue to showcase a wide range of artistic and branded content that will forever transform the Las Vegas skyline.
Thanks for reading JSA+Partners Monthly Digest! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, or feedback. See you next month!