LONDON: As many as one million people may have watched Saturday’s Pride march in central London celebrating the LBGT community, but activists have voiced concerns about the role played by corporate sponsorship.

“The parade needs commercial sponsorship to fund it but corporate floats now dominate the event,” Peter Tatchell, a long-timer campaigner for gay rights, told the Independent.

“They’ve got the money, so they have huge extravagant floats that outshine and overwhelm the LGBT+ community groups,” he said. “Many of the companies have ‘degayed’ their floats. They don’t mention LGBT+, just Pride.”

Tatchell was also critical of the “increasingly regimented, commodified and straight-jacketed” approach of the organisers which this year saw parade numbers limited to 30,000.

“If there was no limit, 100,000 people would march, like in the 1990s,” he claimed. The BBC meanwhile reported that even though England were playing a World Cup quarter final, up to one million people lined the streets of London to watch the parade pass, numbers which will surely have gladdened corporate hearts at least.

Barclays Bank was the headline sponsor, while retailer Tesco, airline Virgin Atlantic and consulting firm PwC were among other top-tier sponsors.

Tatchell’s complaint is not unique: Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has also seen brands piling in to sponsor it, raising questions about their motivations.

The response of long-running sponsor ANZ Bank was to demonstrate that its commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect ran deeper than just a name association; in 2016, it changed its own, coming out loud and proud as GAYNZ.

Along with rebranding across its social media and online banking, ANZ transformed an underperforming, tired-looking bank branch at the heart of the Mardi Gras parade route into a baroque-inspired homage to LBGTI iconography, earning the moniker of ‘a bank fit for a queen’; at the same time it boosted positive sentiment by 45% and doubled account openings.

With Pride, as with all other sponsorships, it is no longer enough for brands to simply piggyback on an event – they need to immerse themselves more fully in the interests of the audience.

Sourced from Independent, BBC; additional content by WARC staff