Pride Month

True Colors: Forging Genuine Bonds with the LGBTQIA+ Community

In recent years, there have been major shifts in how brands approach diversity and inclusivity across all spectrums, especially for the LGBTQIA+ community. This shift, rooted heavily in consumer demand, has compelled brands to recalibrate, to think and do beyond just the token and box-checking gestures during Pride Month, creating rainbow-themed products and easy-to-do donations. It involves and continues to call for genuine understanding, meaningful engagement, and a commitment to support and uplift the community… year-round. 

The power of the LGBTQIA+ community is unparalleled, as it is the fastest-growing minority segment in the United States, with an estimated $1.4 trillion in annual spending. Yet, the community is still viewed as “niche” compared to the general market. 

Authenticity: Beyond The Rainbow Flag 

Authenticity is the cornerstone of any successful brand-community relationship. For brands seeking to connect with the LGBTQIA+ community, authenticity means more than just surface-level representation. It requires a deep understanding of the community's values, struggles, and aspirations. It requires a commitment to inclusivity that permeates every aspect of the brand’s operations, from marketing campaigns to internal policies and beyond.

While it’s wonderful for brands to donate and positively contribute to a certain cause, consumers are demanding more from brands. This lives throughout the company: from diverse representation across all levels of employment - especially in leadership positions, inclusive benefits and policies, internal support groups, and productive plans of action if situations of inequity and/or discrimination take place. 

Authentic connection requires brands to take concrete actions to support LGBTQIA+ causes. Consumers look to brands and their leadership to play an active role in aiding LGBTQIA+ rights and policies, as well as educating consumers and sharing resources on how they too can help shape policies in our country. If a brand publicly supports and demonstrates a commitment to expanding and protecting LGBTQ+ rights, Americans are twice as likely to buy the brand.

Finally, one of the most visible ways a brand can connect with the community is through representation. Every piece of content a brand puts out defines its values. Consumers keep an eye out for what a brand is trying to say and how often it does it. This goes beyond just featuring LGBTQIA+ individuals in campaigns. It also means collaborating with LGBTQIA+ creators, influencers, and organizations to ensure that campaigns are respectful and empowering.  

Brands on the Right Path

Smirnoff is a brand that walks this talk. Inclusivity is its ethos. As Smirnoff’s PR AOR, Taylor has worked with the brand to build year-round inclusive programming that authentically connects with the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, Smirnoff’s Show Up Show Off campaign elevated the platforms of local market drag queens and kings who have not yet seen reality television fame. In their 50+ years of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, Smirnoff has continually raised millions for nonprofits and infused inclusive talent and influencer programs 365 days a year.

NWSL: The North Star of Allyship 

Paving the way when it comes to authentic inclusivity is the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL for short). Across their initiatives, marketing & storytelling, and internal practices and policies, the league strives to create a safe and inclusive environment internally for all its teams, and externally for its fans. 

Inclusive Policies & Practices 

The NWSL has instituted policies that promote equality and diversity within the league. Although not always free of scandal, the league has operated under a revised collective bargaining agreement since 2023 between the NWSL Players Association and US Soccer instituting new standards for player safety, resources, and salary. This latest chapter has seen undeniable success across fan support, viewership, and increased value. 

Stories of Pride

Many players in the NWSL are openly LGBTQIA+, and the league continuously celebrates, supports, and amplifies their stories. These stories are an essential pillar of the league’s storytelling. Fans seek (and receive) community from the sport, connecting with athletes on important and relatable elements of life. On the importance of sharing her own LGBTQIA+ story within the league, and to the world, retired NWSL legend Ali Krieger shared her message, “I feel like it’s important the visibility continues, and the authenticity of everyone's individual life really shines, because it will inspire everyone to come out as they are, live life, love, and be happy.” 

Catalysts of Change 

The work that the NWSL and its individual teams do to bolster causes and rights of their LGBTQIA+ fans stretches across several pillars:  

  • Community: Outreach programs support LGBTQIA+ youth on a local and national level. This includes hosting clinics, workshops, and events that promote inclusivity and encourage participation in sports.
  • Education: The league and its teams conduct educational campaigns that raise awareness about LGBTQIA+ issues and combat stereotypes, in an effort to create a more inclusive environment both within the league and in broader society.
  • Advocacy: They have been active in supporting legislation that promotes equality, and are very vocal in speaking out against issues plaguing the community, including the more recent battle for inclusivity for transgender athletes in sport. 

Authentically connecting with the LGBTQIA+ community requires more than just a once-a-year check in, rainbow merch, and even, good intentions. Like the NWSL, it demands genuine understanding, ongoing commitment, and a willingness to listen and learn. Brands that prioritize authenticity in their interactions with the LGBTQIA+ community, like Smirnoff,  not only improve their loyalty and perception with consumers but make a lasting impact on society as a whole and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. 

As a leader in the sports and entertainment marketing industry for 40 years, Taylor has embraced diverse perspectives to build culturally inclusive programs for our brand partners. We have had the pleasure of shaping breakthrough ideas for partners like Smirnoff, P&G, Crown and Secret in the sports landscape as well as drawing inspiration from other properties  who pave the way, like the NWSL. We welcome the opportunity to unlock growth opportunities for your brand too.

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