Last year an unprecedented number of people took to the streets to celebrate London Pride. 2019 marked 50 years since the revolutionary Stonewall uprising took place in New York and the event was attended by an estimated 1.5 million people. In 2020, these celebrations are set to look very different. According to the European Pride Organizers Association, nearly 500 LGBTQ+ events scheduled to celebrate Pride Month have had to be postponed or cancelled due to the current pandemic and associated restrictions. Despite this, Pride bodies and media brands are forging ahead with the occasion, like all other live events, online, optimistic that Lockdown could provide a unique opportunity to amplify LGBTQ+ rights.
Virtual events include: Pride Inside, a calendar of digital celebrations produced by Amnesty International partnering with UK Black Pride, Stonewall and ParaPride, and Pride in London’s Staying In events for the queer community. It may be a far cry from last year’s Pride, but pivoting the events online could have its own advantages. For starters, online spaces are not restricted by the same accessibility issues for those with disabilities and anxiety or limited by location. Likewise, it facilitates the creation of a global community and enables people from all over the world to interact with each – including a host of International talent that would otherwise be unavailable.
There are growing concerns however that advertisers who have previously spent on Pride campaigns may put their spending on hold this month and potentially indefinitely, particularly due to reduced visibility online. In May, 89% of large multinational companies deferred marketing campaigns. For brands, product placement on Zoom-events might not have the same tangible impact as a physical presence at the parade.
Brands who choose to spend behind Pride must focus, now more than ever, on making a long-term commitment to the cause. In the wake of protests following George Floyd’s death, consumers are hyper-conscious of tokenism. A post in support of the LGBTQ+ movement is no longer enough. Consumers will identify with companies that put their money where their mouth is such as jeans company Levi’s, a long-standing supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, who is producing its annual Pride collection, with 100% of net proceeds going to OutRight Action International, or UGG who have created Pride-themed flurry slippers and will be donating $125,000 to non-profit organisation GLAAD. Brands must also go a step further and acknowledge the shared histories of Pride and Black Lives Matter movements, both founded by people of colour to fight systematic discrimination and intolerance, and focus on intersectionality and inclusivity.
Although Pride is expected to resume in all its colourful glory in 2021, it appears that there could still be a place for digital events moving forward. Moreover, the protests of 2020 will have long-lasting effects on how brands interact with the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups.