Seeking out the pink dollar

GAYTM_UnicornDreamBrands are increasingly cashing in on the popularity of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in an attempt to lure the pink dollar with the likes of ANZ’s GAYTMs leading the charge, writes Robert Burton-Bradley.

Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is attracting an ever increasing pool of funding from a growing number of premium ad and sponsorship partners, including social economy booking firm Airbnb, as well as a return of last year’s high profile ANZ Bank GAYTMs campaign.

Ben Mulcahy from specialist agency Pink Media, which targets the LGBTI community, said advertising and sponsorship growth around Mardi Gras had been growing strongly each year.

“It gets bigger every year and from the sponsor perspective there’s huge value to be derived,” he told Mumbrella.

Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik said brand partnerships were a key part of Mardi Gras funding model, with 2014 sponsorship revenue for Mardi Gras at $1.67 million, up $400,100 on 2013. He said this year was predicted to continue the rising trend.

“Brand partnerships are really important to the organisation on a number of levels, obviously financial support, but also increasingly the brands that partner with us are not just about getting brand promotion or activation out of the event, it’s also because many of their employees are gay and lesbian and all of the organisations that we partner with we really make sure that they have a strong diversity program and a commitment to inclusion,” Rolik said.

Greg Segal Managing Director from mixitup, Mardi Gras exclusive sponsorship agency since 2006 said, “It has been a pleasure to guide Mardi Gras for the last 10 years through the process of growing the value to partners and in turn the value of the partnerships to the organisation . When we started, Mardi Gras had only a few sponsors and very little revenue.
One fine example is ANZ, now in its 9th year, which started as a staff float entry and over time we developed the partnership to initially a major sponsorship and then the Principle Partnership it is today”

Durex Creative (1)Eexisting partners like V Energy and Durex are also continuing their association as brand sponsors with the energy drink launching a rainbow themed can and Durex launching its “Love Same Sex” campaign and there has also been the ‘Equality Phone Box’ campaign from ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s, with SBS the official broadcast partner. MTV has also launched the Pride pop up channel, although that is not an official partner of the event.

It’s a far cry from just over a decade ago when the festival went bankrupt after struggling to attract enough sponsorship to stay viable.

Experts argue the turnaround in recent years is a sign of the increasing value of being involved with the event which is the second largest in NSW, and more broadly in aligning with the LGBTI community.

Mulcahy says this year was the second time ANZ had come on board as a principal sponsor, and that the decision by SBS as broadcast partner to show the parade on SBS1 instead of SBS2 this year showed a growing recognition of the value of the gay community and for brands and advertisers.

“It’s the second year of the GAYTM which is wonderful and they have gone international,” he said.

According to Rolik, as acceptance levels towards the LGBTI community awareness and acceptance had risen, so too had the variety of brands seeking to be associated with the event.

He cites last year’s high profile brand association, the ANZ bank award-winning GAYTM campaignThe campaign created by Whybin\TBWA Melbourne and sees ATMs around Sydney decorated using colours, patterns and jewels inspired by LGBTI culture.

This year the campaign will see one Australian town awarded their very own GATYM during Mardi Gras. Australians can vote for the location they would like to see host ‘The only GAYTM in the village’ by visiting the ANZ Facebook page or on the campaign’s website.

The Airbnb mardi gras belo.

The Airbnb mardi gras belo.

ANZ head of marketing Carolyn Bendall said the brand value from such initiatives was huge and extended far beyond the LGBTI community.

“The value for us as a brand is multi-faceted there is no doubt we absolutely do see there is brand value in it. It makes our brand distinctive and that is exceeding valuable for any brand to get that kind of notice,” says Bendall.

“It was also extremely valuable for us in terms of social reach  in a marketing perspective we have really grown pour social presence and the amount of people who are now engaged with us as brand and we do think it actually translates through to customer acquisition, and not just specifically in the LGBTI market  but across the board because it helps make us more distinctive and people think they might want to talk to a bank like ANZ.”

Mulcahy said there was strong competition from banks around the LGBTI space and the continuation of the high profile GAYTM campaign from ANZ was unsurprising.

“It’s great to see some of the crossover into other cities; the Midsumma festival in Melbourne is sponsored by NAB, so you are seeing the banks fighting over this space on a national scale,” he said.

“In categories like banking there’s a lot of competition. For example Commonwealth Bank sponsored the Bingham Cup and you have St George sponsoring Queer Screen who run the Mardi Gras film festival.”

However according to Mulcahy some brands needed to target the LGBTI community more consistently if they wanted engagement and move towards ongoing strategies rather than just one off campaigns targeting Sydney at the time of the Mardi Gras festival.

Ben & Jerry’s unveil the Equality Calling phone box.

Ben & Jerry’s unveil the Equality Calling phone box.

“Mardi Gras attracts around half a million people, it’s the second largest event in NSW behind New Year’s Eve; both from the numbers attending and an economic contribution,” he said.

“So it’s a large audience; but there’s a lot of reasons why marketers want to engage with the LGBTI community. It’s definitely our biggest time of year, but having said that, its a community and there’s pink dollars all year round, so we encourage our clients to be more consistent with their conversation they are having with this audience.

Mulcahy said there LGBTI communities all around Australia and many events other than Mardi Gras.

“We’ve been managing Durex for four years, but this is the first year we have gone interstate with them, They’ve targeted the Melbourne Midsumma Festival which is almost as big as Mardi Gras,” he said.

“So our recommendation is to ideally be across the calendar year or financial year with this period being spike in that media plan and also ideally they should be national. not just Sydney, although Sydney is the largest LGBTI population, if they really want to connect  on a large scale then it needs to be a national campaign.”

Rolik said there were unique challenges as well as strengths to attracting sponsor brands to the festival because of it’s unique nature.

logo_MTV-PRIDE“We are in many ways like any festival in the arts and entertainment space trying to attract sponsors, but we are quite uniquely a movement for equal rights and diversity so what normally happens is that the brands we associate with, it’s also about their employees who are marching in the parade, their customers, and it’s great for their status as an equal opportunity employer,” he said.

“It sends a really strong message to the audience that watch the parade and the community in general that ‘hey here are some brands that are really showing leadership a position and that are prepared to stick their head above the parapet’, and it’s that kind of leadership which helps change attitudes.”

Bendall said the diversity aspect for workplaces had played a huge role in ANZ’s participation with the GAYTMs and past year’s sponsorship of the event.

“It was something that was originally absolutely a grass roots initiative through ANZ staff and we have a very active pride network at ANZ,” she said. “So when the opportunity came up last year to be the principal partner and to do some fun stuff, and when we did that in conjunction with Whybin TBWA our ad agency we looked at the whole idea of diversity and inclusion and respect. We saw, and thanks to some very creative branding, we saw an opportunity to create an initiative that actually really speaks out in a really exciting and unique way.

“We do see it as an initiative that is important for our staff and brand, but we actually think its important as a broader expression of inclusion.”

Robert Burton-Bradley


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