For the duration of Pride Month, hard seltzer brand Truly had initially planned a digital “Truly Proud” campaign in partnership with LGBTQ+ nonprofit GLAAD that would share 16 stories of LGBTQ+ individuals talking about employment discrimination. Meanwhile, a digital billboard in Times Square would highlight people celebrating Pride safely at home. Now, the campaign has been paused and the billboard overhauled to read a simple, unbranded message: Black Lives Matter.
The horrifying death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has thrown the world through another loop in an already traumatic year. U.S. citizens continue to rally in nationwide protests against the racial injustice of Floyd’s death and the wider systemic injustice in our society.
Brands, which often stay silent on social justice issues, are speaking out against racism, pledging money to groups that support the black community and promising change in representation at the corporate level. Brands like Lego have also hit pause on advertising, careful not to seem insensitive at this time.
Increasingly, brands reserve June (designated as Pride Month) for Pride campaigns. But right now is no time for celebration, and brands are either postponing efforts altogether or reworking content to better reflect the black LGBTQ+ community.
“We are fully committed to Pride and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community this year, but we know there are other voices that need to be heard right now,” says Lesya Lysyj, chief marketing officer at Truly’s parent company, The Boston Beer Company. Lysyj says the brand will resume its “Truly Proud” campaign when it “feels appropriate.”
Jack Daniel’s had planned to launch a video series for Pride Month on June 6 presented by Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire and in partnership with GLAAD and 16 other LGBTQ+ nonprofits, but is postponing the series until June 20, due to its celebratory tone. The series features drag queens participating in the popular online food trend “mukbang,” or meokbang, where people talk about what they’re eating as they’re eating. The videos feature drag queen influencer Patrick Starrr who has 4.5 million YouTube subscribers, The Try Guys’ Eugene Lee Yang and “RuPaul Drag Race” alums.
L.A. Pride has changed its approach. When the pandemic hit, the organization canceled its annual in-person Pride parade. This week, it announced its intention to lead a peaceful protest in solidarity with the black community in its place.
Many brands have already had to adapt their Pride plans due to COVID-19. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, several brands that opted to continue their Pride campaigns, revamped them with online offerings as lockdowns continued to keep people indoors and Pride parades went virtual.
PepsiCo’s Bubly is postponing its purely virtual Pride campaign for later in the month. In past years, the brand has sponsored floats in Pride parades, but this campaign for the flavored seltzer asks people to post their Pride parade struts on TikTok or Instagram Stories, with the hashtag #UnstoppablePride, supporting GLAAD. The campaign was meant to launch on June 4, and Bubly was planning on editing all the videos together on a microsite to create “the longest virtual parade ever.”
“While we had planned to kick off the #UnstoppablePride Parade at the beginning of the month, we’ve hit pause because we feel strongly that the focus remains on the systemic racism, discrimination and tragic murders that have been unfolding in Black communities across America for far too long,” says Stacy Taffet, vice president of water portfolio for PepsiCo. “We are outraged by the death of George Floyd and stand in solidarity with the Black community.”
Brands are not only choosing to suspend their Pride campaigns but support black communities with donations to Black rights organizations. Earlier this week, Verizon announced it paused its Pride campaign and donated $10 million to social justice organizations; Truly has made a donation to the NAACP; and Pepsi previously announced a $5 million initiative to African American and Latino communities already suffering through COVID-19 and has spoken out about the death of George Floyd.