The original supermodel of the world, RuPaul recently wrapped the eleventh season of the self-titled runaway success, RuPaul’s Drag Race, with a speech about how “a TV show made by queer people, for queer people” has taken over the mainstream. Whilst these comments may have attracted some criticism around inclusivity, the sentiment rings true.
With June being LGBTQ+ Pride month, and the UK’s first spin-off series purported to launch on the BBC in late 2019, the time felt right to cast some light (no shade) on the opportunities for brands in partnering and supporting something which everyone from Christina Aguilera to Cara Delevingne has expressed sheer joy at being part of. Viewing figures are hush hush, although an article post season 10 indicated it had broken ratings records for one broadcaster*. RuPaul has an Instagram following of 3.1m, and the show almost 1m on Twitter.
In the recent, glitzy, celebrity sprinkled season 11 finale, which saw Yvie Oddly snatch the crown, we also saw the queens, judges and guests all posing in front of a giant Levi’s rainbow logo. The brand is no stranger to the queer community, being a consistent and vocal campaigner since the 1950s where they removed segregation of workers before the laws changed, but it’s the first time they’ve played such a visible role on RPDR.
Brand support is at the very heart of Drag Race, with Mama Ru number one at promoting and cross-selling her own brand – from autobiographies to music, dolls and perfume. Whilst the majority of the sponsorships and ad-funded challenges in past series have been for US based brands, they are benefitting from a global audience through the show’s presence on VH1, Comedy Central and, of course, Netflix. The category is…everything from travel and holiday companies, to alcohol, jewellery, underwear and fashion brands.
How can British brands show their support, love and fandom for all things drag? Genuine interest starts at the grassroots level. One of the most resounding criticisms levelled at brands in their quest to show support for their LGBTQ+ consumers is that they ignore the opportunity to support at regional and foundational communities; instead pumping their money into the highest reach and profile events.
Engaging the drag community in the UK, whether it involves supporting drag events and expos financially, or enabling tours to spread the drag message far and wide; visibility and understanding of this increasingly popular artform could provide a rich area of opportunity for the right company.
To do so with honesty and integrity, as with any plan to immerse your brand in a subculture, requires an internal review and alignment first, because in the words of Ru: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”