Rainbow Coalition: LGBT Pride, the Rainbow, and Corporate Commodification

Rainbow Coalition: LGBT Pride, the Rainbow, and Corporate Commodification

By Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri

Philly Wells Fargo Pride Festivals  Float

Summer.  While most people mark the beginning and the end of summer by their significant holiday markers (Memorial Day in May, and Labor Day in September), I actually mark summer by the beginning and end of the Pride season festivals.  Starting as early as the first weeks of May, Pride festivals celebrate not only the legacy of our rich LGBT history, but also the current and ongoing fight for social and political equality. Rainbow flags, colorful banners, and huge queer-inspired signs sprout up; with each Pride festival celebration being bigger, brighter, and flashier than the one before it.  This is by no accident.

LGBT Pride’s original intent, in June of 1970, was to commemorate the Stonewall Riots in NYC; a pivotal moment in the LGBT social movement, as it was the first time that the LGBT community had taken a stand against the social injustices put against them.  While the current Pride festival is meant to be a stance on social and political issues within the LGBT community, it is often overshadowed by the glitz, flashiness, and spectacle that has come to characterize the Pride parades. The theme of social activism is overshadowed by corporate banners, floats, and sponsorship.  

With every year, the cost of the Pride festivals increases, with much of the bill being footed by large corporate sponsors, such as the financial institution, Wells Fargo.  In 2017, Wells Fargo provided $50 million dollars in support of roughly 60 pride festivals across the country. While big companies not only donate money, they also pay a considerable amount of money for a float in the parade, and special positioning and consideration when it comes to visibility during the celebration.  And that’s not surprising, considering that the LGBT community has increasing purchasing power and a large consumer base, and these companies want in.

Altoids pride festivals float
Even Altoids get in on the action

Corporate sponsorship is not new the LGBT Pride festival; dating back to the early 1990s.  As LGBT acceptance in the general public increases, so does corporate incentive to gain their support.  It is estimated that the LGBT community has an estimated buying power of over $7 billion dollars. With eyes on the monetary prize, the image and colorway of the rainbow (long touted as a symbol of the diversity within the LGBT community) becomes a hot commodity as companies look to cash in on LGBT support.  It seems that, during the summer, we are littered and bombarded by rainbow clothing, products, and LGBT-themed advertisements to garner our attention, support, and most importantly, our wallets.

That is not to say that all corporate sponsorship is bad.  The money is used to help fund a bigger and better Pride experience for the attendees.   However, every year, even with the increase in corporate sponsorship and money, the actual costs for the Festival increases, with the attendees often feeling the blunt of the increase head-on.  Overpriced tickets and merchandise, and a watered-down agenda take over a celebration that was once a testament to radicalism, liberation, and the continued fight for social justice.

As the summer concludes, so too does the Pride festival season, with the disappearance of rainbow merchandise and LGBT-themed imagery in the media.  It’ll almost seem like a faint memory or distant dream; one where the world seemed to burst with rainbows and queer diversity. But, like clockwork, as the summers rears its head, we will be inundated with corporate-funded LGBT imagery and multicolored products.   And at that moment, I will know Pride Season is upon us (oh, and summer too).

One Reply to “Rainbow Coalition: LGBT Pride, the Rainbow, and Corporate Commodification”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.