The marching bands and rainbow floats that traverse gay pride parades offer plenty of opportunities for advertisers looking to court LGBT customers. But an anti-Trump march? Good luck getting advertisers on board for that.
Sponsors are fleeing L.A.’s #Resist march this year out of fear of being associated with its overtly political message, according to march organizer Brian Pendleton. “No corporate dollars that used to go to the parade are going to the march,” Pendleton told Four Two Nine.
This corporate skittishness is a new phenomenon for L.A. Pride, which has traditionally lured a bevy of well-heeled sponsors to its sequined floats as well as its impressive three-day music festival featuring headliners like Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX. Last year’s principal sponsors included Wells Fargo, Vegas.com, Bud Light and Skyy Vodka, which describes itself as “steeped with the progressive spirit of California.”
But this year, as organizers decided to shelve the open air trucks filled with go-go dancers, corporate interest has cooled. Only one of last year’s sponsors, Nissan, told Four Two Nine that they planned on supporting the march. (Three others didn’t respond.) [UPDATE: A PR representative from Nissan told Four Two Nine that the company plans on sponsoring L.A.’s Pride Festival, not the Resistance March.] While the event is 55 days away, leaving plenty of time for would-be sponsors to change course, Pendleton doesn’t seem optimistic. “Community members are behind this, but the corporate community is somewhat dubious and nervous about it,” he said.
“I find it amazing that we’ve been able to get corporations on board with the celebratory frivolity of a parade, but when it comes to standing up for human rights, it’s making them a little bit nauseous.”
Wells Fargo, a sponsor of L.A.’s first gay pride, confirmed to Four Two Nine that the company did not plan on participating in the march this year. “Wells Fargo is prohibited from supporting political events,” said Paul Gomez, the company’s California media representative. “We also don’t want to lose focus on what pride is all about.”
In fact, the majority of LGBT pride parades around the world were born out of protest; one of the first public rallies in support of gay people, held in 1967 in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, was a pointed display of defiance in the face of police brutality.
Pendleton says that the march will be fine whether or not it gains corporate sponsorship. “We’ve had individuals write us checks for ten thousand, fifteen thousand dollars,” he said. “The community is behind us.”
It could behoove corporations to take a Pepto Bismal and dive in; those that have stood up to Trump in the past have benefited financially and in the public sphere. Nordstrom’s beef with Ivanka led to a spike in stock prices and advertisers who subtly (and not so subtly) critiqued Trump’s immigration policies in their Super Bowl ads received oodles of favorable press coverage.
This year’s pride participants will gather at Hollywood and Highland, the site of L.A.’s first official gay pride parade, and travel three miles to West Hollywood Park. The march’s description on Facebook originally read, “Floats and marching bands are nice when we are not at war. Now is the time we shake things up and take to the streets.”
Pendleton insists that this year’s march is meant to be inclusive of LGBT people across the political spectrum. “I don’t think standing for human rights, healthcare, immigrants and LGBT issues should be divisive,” he said.
“I know that my Republican parents, who are no longer alive, would have been supportive.”